PORTLAND, Ore. – A textbook curling free kick from Will Johnson gave the Portland Timbers their second win in as many games and highlighted a fierce battle between Western Conference rivals in a 1-0 victory Sunday night over the San Jose Earthquakes.
Johnson lined up just beyond the penalty area after Timbers forward Kalif Alhassan was sent crashing to the turf by Earthquakes midfielder Ramiro Corrales in the 77th minute. And after being stymied all night by a stout San Jose defense, Johnson’s curling effort over the wall to the inside post and just beyond the reach of diving goalkeeper Jon Busch finally broke the seal, sending the sellout crowd at JELD-WEN Field into a frenzy.
Portland’s victory leapfrogs them into third place with nine points from six games after staring the night in eighth. San Jose nearly escaped with their second straight draw despite seeing the Timbers dominate offensively, but fall into a tie with five teams all on eight points.
The rough-and-tumble game that featured five bookings came to a crescendo when San Jose forward Alan Gordon saw his second yellow of the night in the 67th minute for catching Portland defender Mikaël Silvestre in the face with a flying elbow that left the Frenchman bloodied on the lip. From there, the Timbers dialed up the pressure even more on the 10-man side.
And while the Timbers managed just two shots on goal, they created 11 shot attempts and held a 65 percent possession advantage. The relentless pressure effectively neutralized the recently reunited San Jose attacking trio of Chris Wondolowski, Gordon and Steven Lenhart.
San Jose managed just five shots on goal, just one each for Gordon and Wondolowski.
Portland, meanwhile, continued their success in head coach Caleb Porter’s possession attack despite the absence of Argentinian midfielder Diego Valeri, who missed the game after sustaining a concussion last week. Darlington Nagbe, playing in Valeri’s place at attacking midfielder fired off three shots and one on goal while teaming up with forwards Alhassan, Rodney Wallace and Ryan Johnson.
San Jose, pushing forward desperately in stoppage time, nearly leveled the match again when Wondolowski sent his header straight at Donovan Ricketts, the big Jamaican's third of the night and good for a second straight clean sheet.
The two teams will meet again next Sunday, April 21, this time at San Jose’s Buck Shaw Stadium.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Will Johnson||Played a great game at the heart of midfield and struck a brilliant free kick for the winner|
|2||Futty Danso||Put in an excellent shift in an injury-ravaged backline, doing a big part to shut down San Jose's power trio of Wondolowski, Gordon and Lenhart|
|3||Ryan Johnson||The finishing touch wasn't there, but Johnson worked his tail off in the attack and was at the center of many of Portland's best moves|