The Portland Timbers got off to a dream start in their CONCACAF Champions League group stage game against Saprissa in San Jose, Costa Rica, but that evaporated over the course of a 4-2 loss on Wednesday.
While the Timbers took an early lead, Saprissa put immense pressure on the visitors and took all three points in one of the most formidable stadiums for visiting sides in the region, on a night that included two penalties for the Costa Rican powerhouse.
Saprissa nearly evened up the score just two minutes later, but Daniel Colindres' attempt bounced off the post and away from the goal. The hosts were unfortunate a second time, in the 28th minute, as Mariano Torres' free kick went off the crossbar, preserving the Timbers' lead.
It got worse in the final minutes before halftime, as Ben Zemanski was called for a penalty foul on Marvin Angulo, and Angulo converted the penalty kick in the 45th minute to make it 2-1.
Saprissa then notched another goal at the hour mark, as Fabricio Ronchetti received a pass, dribbled past Diego Chara in the box and hit an unmistakable shot to make it 3-1.
Just as it seemed a win for the hosts was in the bag, Adi turned and rifled in a cross from Zarek Valentin in the 68th minute to bring the Timbers to within a goal. The striker was injured in the play, however, and was immediately replaced.
But Saprissa were awarded another penalty a few minutes later, as Steven Taylor was judged to have handled the ball in the box, and Angulo notched his second penalty kick of the night in the 74th minute.
- 5' – POR – Diego Valeri (Fanendo Adi)
- 34' – SAP – Jermaine Taylor (OG)
- 45' – SAP – Marvin Angulo (PK)
- 45' – SAP – Fabricio Ronchetti (Mariano Torres)
- 68' – POR – Fanendo Adi (Zarek Valentin)
- 74' – SAP – Marvin Angulo (PK)
- Full Box Score
- TOUGH VENUE: The Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Ayma is one of the toughest venues for opposing teams in all of CONCACAF. It could even be argued it's the second-toughest stadium in the region in atmospheric terms behind just the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. And while the Timbers have a CCL campaign under their belts in their history and considerable individual experience playing in tough conditions, the vaunted Saprissa crowd came out for the occasion, and tempers flared in the first half with a brief scuffle. The Timbers were always going to have a tough task in this game, and they could not cope with the conditions in the end.
- MONSTER'S AGGRESSION: The idea a team "scores too early" is in all likelihood a fallacy, but the Timbers' early goal seemed to provoke more attacking aggression from Saprissa, and their effort wore down Portland over the course of the night. Saprissa took 25 shots to the Timbers' nine, with Saprissa more than doubling Portland's shots on target number (seven to three). Given the tough conditions and Saprissa being on the front foot, it seemed like only a matter of time before the Costa Ricans took charge, and that's exactly what happened.
- TABLE TALK: The result leaves Portland in second place in Group B, four points behind Saprissa, but there's a silver lining: The Timbers have a game in hand on the Central American side. That means they have a game against the already-eliminated Dragon in El Salvador in two weeks, followed by the group stage finale rematch against Saprissa at Providence Park. If the Timbers win both games (by no means a sure thing, but they're still in it), they'll advance to the knockout stage for the first time.
- POR: MLS: Saturday, September 17 vs. Philadelphia (6 pm ET; MLS LIVE)