The Portland Timbers made the trip count.
Playing in the South American country of Guyana in their CONCACAF Champions League Group 5 opener, the Timbers used first-half goals by Steve Zakuani and Maximiliano Urruti and second-half strikes by Fanendo Adi and Alvas Powell to come away with a 4-1 victory Tuesday night over Alpha United in the capital city of Georgetown.
Despite a stunning free-kick goal by Barbosa Murillo right before the halftime whistle, which ignited the small but passionate crowd at Guyana National Stadium, Alpha fell for the second time in CCL play following a 1-0 home loss to Honduran champion Olimpia in their tournament opener two weeks ago.
Making their CCL debut after winning MLS’ Western Conference regular-season championship in 2013 – but not before making the longest trip in CCL history – the Timbers jumped into the lead in their group on goal differential.
Portland appeared content to let the game come to them in the opening minutes.
But on their first opening following an Alpha turnover in midfield in the 18th minute, Portland made no mistake. Kalif Alhassan unlocked Zakuani with a perfectly weighted pass that he slotted coolly past goalkeeper Ronson Williams in a one-v-one situation.
In the 34th minute, Alhassan created the chance again, chipping in a clever pass to Urruti, who easily bypassed Alpha’s defense for another one-v-one with Ronson before pounding it into the back of the net.
Portland extended their dominance from the outset of the second half.
After several near misses – most notably on a 64th-minute long-range blast off the post by Michael Nanchoff – Adi, who came off for Urruti in the second half, back-heeled past Williams off a feed from Powell to make it 3-1 in the 65th minute.
Adi nearly had another in the 69th minute but was ruled offside on a long pass from Alhassan.
The Timbers put the game away in the 83rd minute when Powell cleaned up a Rodney Wallace cross intended for Adi in front of the goalmouth.
Alpha, who equaled Portland with 13 shots, had a handful of opportunities for a second goal on late shots from Manasseh Primo and Caio Oliveria, but Timbers goalkeeper Andrew Weber was equal to the task.
Alpha return to CCL action Aug. 28 away to Olimpia, while Portland next face Olimpia at home on Sept. 16. The Timbers return to MLS play Sunday at home against the Seattle Sounders (5 pm ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes).
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.