The 27-year-old Polish center forward scored his second career MLS brace – his first since 2020 – in Portland’s 3-0 win over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night at Providence Park, calling to mind a time when he was the Timbers’ most efficient scorer.
The Designated Player's first tally involved an excellent takedown of Bill Tuiloma’s long service (upheld following a Video Review check for a potential handball) and a classy low finish beyond subbed-on goalkeeper Abraham Rodriguez. His second merely required being in the right place to hammer Eryk Williamson’s cross into the net from close range.
"This is a breakthrough," Niezgoda said postgame, having scored across an eight-minute span in the second half. "That’s, I think, what I needed and just keep going, keep scoring."
With the Timbers beginning a stretch when they play six of nine league matches at home, it couldn’t be a better time to recapture some of Niezgoda's form from two years prior. That's when he was remarkably efficient with 7g/1a in roughly 600 minutes, only to suffer an ACL tear that derailed his 2021 campaign.
Felipe Mora, Portland's 2021 leading scorer, also remains on a careful minutes watch as he returns from an arthroscopic knee surgery performed in February. Nathan Fogaca emerged from Portland's MLS NEXT Pro team to score a brace in that 7-2 thumping of Sporting Kansas City back in May, but hasn’t been on the end of any goals since. And Niezgoda, already at a career-high 989 minutes played in Portland, is now tied with Tuiloma for the Timbers' goals lead (5) as they chase production from the No. 9 role.
"That’s my job, five goals here this season," Niezgoda said. "I needed it really because I didn’t feel confident. Now hopefully I’m going to feel better every game."
After Saturday's result, Portland have only four wins and 19 points at the halfway point of their season while sitting 11th in the Western Conference standings – four points beneath the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line. It may take a finish similar to the 2021 Timbers – who stacked 10 wins in their final 14 league games to finish fourth in the West and set the stage for hosting MLS Cup 2021 – just to reach the 2022 postseason.
Niezgoda, who's averaged 0.73 goals per 90 minutes since joining Portland from Legia Warsaw in his native Poland, recognizes the bigger picture at play.
"We need to be humble because it’s just one game, three points," Niezgoda said. "We need to keep winning here and overall away as well."
The result snapped a four-game winless streak for Portland, who are just rounding into health.
“We needed this win in this fashion to feel more engaged so that we can continue to grow in this part of the season, especially at home," said head coach Giovanni Savarese.