PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers put to rest any question of whether their first-half magic had worn off with a much-needed 2-1 victory Saturday night over reeling FC Dallas at JELD-WEN Field.
Goals by Timbers forwards Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe, both assisted by midfielder Diego Valeri, bookended Mauro Díaz’s first MLS goal for FC Dallas. All the goalscoring action came in the first half, but it was clear both teams were desperate to keep pace in the jam-packed Western Conference playoff race as there was no shortage of offensive-minded action.
With the win, the Timbers – who were without captain and midfielder Will Johnson in addition to first-choice fullback Jack Jewsbury and forward Frédéric Piquionne due to injury – move into third place with 38 points from 23 games, three points behind front-running Real Salt Lake.
The loss drops slumping FCD, the early trendsetter in the West, out of the playoff picture with 33 points from 24 games. Dallas now have gone 11 games without a victory dating back to May 25.
The action was hot and heavy right from the start, with Portland pressing high in their signature possession game and FC Dallas hitting back with several dangerous counters, resulting in six shots for each team in the first half.
The Timbers were first to break through when Valeri sent a perfect corner kick to the middle of the six, where Johnson met it with a head of steam to beat Dallas goalkeeper Raúl Fernández.
Dallas countered right back two minutes later when a clever through ball from Fabián Castillo found a streaking Díaz, who finished brilliantly past Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts for the young Argentine newcomer’s first goal in his first start.
Portland didn’t waste much time before taking the lead back. Valeri assisted again after he made a run to just outside the area, unlocking Nagbe from the right wing with a perfectly placed feed. Nagbe did the rest, unleashing a rocket past Fernández to the top shelf.
The pace bogged down a bit in the second half, but Dallas certainly had their chances to even things.
Timbers head coach Caleb Porter breathed a visible sigh of relief when second-half substitute Ramon Nuñez let fly from the right edge of the penalty area for FCD’s best chance of the second half. His shot had Ricketts dead to rights, but it rolled just wide. Portland were able to hang on through five minutes of added time for the victory.
Both teams are both right back in action on Wednesday with Portland hosting Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas traveling to Chivas USA.