HOUSTON – Add another name to the long list of soccer players who’ve missed games owing to unusual injuries.
Portland Timbers winger Sebastian Blanco was absent from Monday’s Western Conference Semifinal first leg at BBVA Compass Stadium because he suffered second-degree burns over much of his right foot when he spilt boiling water in a cooking accident.
If that wasn’t unlucky enough, the Timbers lost another three men to injury inside the first hour of the goalless draw against the Houston Dynamo.
And they were already without a regular starter in midfielder David Guzman, missing with a knee sprain suffered against the Vancouver Whitecaps on October 22. Prolific forward Fanendo Adi (hamstring) has not featured since August 6.
The Timbers had hoped Blanco would make it. “He trained, half-trained last couple of days,” said head coach Caleb Porter. “He was just in too much pain and if you saw the wound it’s excruciating. We thought maybe, he’s a tough kid, that he could grind it out – but there was no way.”
Dairon Asprilla took his place on the right wing and had an impressive evening in a game of few chances on a bumpy pitch. Porter saw three more players suffer injuries during the match as Larrys Mabiala, Diego Chara and Darlington Nagbe all exited the game prematurely.
Mabiala came off just before the break with a hip problem that Porter said would be assessed in the coming days. Nagbe was substituted after 59 minutes with a slightly tight hamstring that Porter did not seem too worried about. But Porter said that Chara, whose non-contact injury came on the stroke of halftime, appears to have fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in his foot.
"That's bad for us," Diego Valeri said about the Chara injury. "Diego is very important for us in the middle. We lost David Guzman, Sebastian Blanco, too. We have [Fanendo] Adi. So we have a couple of injuries but we have a good team so we have to fight next week and win at home."
It means that the head coach will have to shuffle his lineup for Sunday’s second leg at Providence Park, but he was pleased with the performance of his substitutes (Roy Miller, Amobi Okugo and rookie Jeremy Ebobisse) and the way a solid result was ground out in adverse circumstances at a notoriously difficult venue for road teams.
“We’re where we’re at because of our depth,” Porter said. “I think that showed a lot of mettle from our guys to be able to adjust because it’s not really the type of game that we’re used to playing.”
Defender Liam Ridgewell agreed. “Two injuries in the first half don’t help, but it showed we can come on an away game and get a clean sheet and fight and show a different side to ourselves,” he said.