The Portland Timbers needed a win or draw in El Salvador against CD Dragon in order to keep their 2016 CONCACAF Champions League hopes alive.
They got what they came for and then some, besting the Central American side 2-1 thanks to a clutch free kick by Darlington Nagbe in the dying embers of the game.
Portland’s Diego Valeri nearly gave the visiting side an early lead in the 8th minute with a knuckling direct free kick that Dragon goalkeeper Henry Hernandez had difficulty parrying away from his net.
Valeri was not the only one sniffing the Dragon frame as striker Jack McInerney got on the end of a beautifully-weighted through ball from Darlington Nagbe that the American whistled past the post with his left foot in the 29th minute.
The Timbers conceded the first goal of the match against the run of play in the 54th minute, as Dragon orchestrated and slotted home via a tidy combination and finish from Kevin Melara.
Porter immediately made an offensive sub in search of an equalizer, swapping in center forward Fanendo Adi for midfielder Ben Zemanski in the 60th minute.
Ned Grabavoy could have donned the hero's cape for the Timbers in the 72nd if not for a goal-line clearance that robbed the MLS veteran of what would have been a dramatic equalizer.
The Timbers did not quit there, though. Adi volleyed home a poor clearance in the 79th minute, grabbing the equalizer his side most certainly earned.
It was Nagbe who put the icing on the cake, however, with a brilliant free kick in the 90th minute, an effort that will surely add to his already legendary resume in the Rose City.
- 54’ – CDC – Kevin Melara (Jamal Jack)
- 79’ – POR – Fanendo Adi
- 90’ – POR – Darlington Nagbe
- Full boxscore
- A LEGEND GROWS: Nagbe has already amassed his fair share of highlights in a Timbers uniform. The Cascadia legend’s sizzling free kick that secured his team’s first-ever victory in Central America is a moment Timbers’ supporters will remember for years to come, particularly if they are able to finish the job in October against Saprissa.
- ALIVE AND WELL: Things looked bleak with little time to go for the Timbers. But after some Central America heroics, the Timbers have now earned six points in three matches. Their next opponent, Costa Rican side Deportivo Saprissa, have earned seven points in three matches.Tuesday’s result sets up a winner-take-all final group stage match on Oct.19 at Providence Park for a spot in the next round of CONCACAF’s elite club competition. This one could be a CONCACAF treat in the making.
- A QUICK SHIFT: Caleb Porter did not take long to react to his team giving up the first goal of the match. His inclusion of another attacker in Adi provided a masterstroke, as the Nigerian bagged the game-tying goal and helped lead the charge that eventually saw Portland take all three points back to the Pacific Northwest. How will Porter approach the massive group-stage finale at home against a dangerous Costa Rican side?
- POR: Saturday, October 1 at Colorado Rapids (9 pm ET | MLS LIVE)