PORTLAND, Ore. — Of all the good news for the Portland Timbers out of their home-opening 4-2 victory over the Chicago Fire on Thursday, perhaps the most encouraging was a the breakout performance of forward Jorge Perlaza.
The 5-foot-10 forward from Colombia scored the first-ever goal at JELD-WEN in the 29th minute and then added a second goal early in the second half.
It was a stunning turn of fortune for a player who was criticized for missed opportunities in the first month of the season.
“I’m super happy for him because he’s a guy who totally embraced the culture here and he knows the game is different from his homeland,” coach John Spencer said after the match. “He’s willing to work hard to be a success here.”
WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: Portland 4, Chicago 2
Perlaza took a well-timed forward pass from Kalif Alhassan, demonstrated patience by slowing to make an adjustment, before firing past Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
“I was looking for this goal and it came at the right time,” Perlaza said through a translator. “It’s the first home game and I’m very happy. It’s an indescribable feeling.”
Perlaza was hailed for his speed and his nose for goal when the Timbers signed him on March 7. He has been paired up front with Kenny Cooper for every game this season, but until Thursday he had been unable to finish.
“That’s exactly what we needed out of him,” said Timbers defender Rodney Wallace, who scored the team’s second goal. “It just proves the amazing player that he is. He’s proven a lot of people wrong in many ways. We believe in him and this was the perfect night to score goals.”
Wallace and Perlaza linked up to create Perlaza's second goal. Wallace's cross bounced away from Johnson, and Perlaza was in the right place for the easy tap in.
He got an added emotional lift this week with the news that friend and former teammate Diego Chará was purchased from Colombian club Tolima and will join the Timbers as their first designated player.
“I’m very happy because I know what kind of player he is,” Perlaza said. “He’s a great player and I have known him on many teams. I know he will be a valuable asset on this team.”
On Thursday, no one was a more valuable asset for Portland than Perlaza.