Online exclusive: Timbers remain unbeaten at home after 1-0 victory

The Timbers returned to Portland after learning some hard lessons on the road. The 3-0 loss to LA Galaxy two Saturdays ago in Los Angeles made it clear there was still work that needed to be done.

The Timbers returned to Portland after learning some hard lessons on the road. The 3-0 loss to LA Galaxy two Saturdays ago in Los Angeles made it clear there was still work that needed to be done. On Saturday the Timbers showed a complete effort, shutting out a Real Salt Lake team that is thought to be one of the best in MLS this season.

Winning the game on Saturday night moved the Timbers (3-3-1) up to fourth place in the western conference standings, and ended Real Salt Lake’s 18 game unbeaten streak, going all the way back to last July. Although a few of RSL starters rested on the night, Portland gave a complete effort and were able to close the door on a vicious second-half attack from Salt Lake. The 1-0 victory marked the first clean sheet for the Timbers, and the hard-fought struggle throughout made the win feel that much better at the final whistle.

“I’d probable say it’s the toughest win, that’s for sure,” said head coach John Spencer to “I think we showed up after we scored—they pinned us back and I felt we showed a lot of character after last week[‘s 3-0 loss to L.A.].”

Defense was definitely the name of the game on this particular night as the Timbers started the game with a different line-up. The Timbers’ number two overall draft pick in the 2011 MLS super draft, Darlington Nagbe, made his first start, as well as midfielder Diego Chara who played in his home country of Columbia until being acquired by the Timbers only weeks ago. With the changes made, Portland looked to remain unbeaten at home and please their loyal crowd with a win.

The game started off slow, with both teams unable to attack the goal and get clean shots on frame. It was not until the 22nd minute of play that anything was able to happen. Timbers midfielder Kalif Alhassan brought the ball up field and was able to get a perfect cross in front of the RSL goal, with Kenny Cooper finishing with his right foot, to give Portland the 1-0 advantage, which would end up being the only point of the match.

After the score Portland continued to apply pressure, with Nagbe and Chará both having an impact on the Timbers dominance of possession. Portland ended the first half with a 6-2 shot advantage and a great amount of confidence, given to them by the home crowd.

The second half was a completely different game though as the Timbers came out flat and spent most of the time in their half of the field defending. It looked as though Real Salt Lake had a second wind, but on this night they were unable to take advantage. Defense saved Portland in the second half as they denied multiple shots on goal in the closing minutes.

Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers had an opportunity to equalize in the 90th minute with a strong header, but was denied by Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins. The final five minutes of the game perhaps saw the most action offensively as a desperate RSL side tried to keep the unbeaten streak going into the record books. Unfortunately for them, the streak ended at 18 and Portland was awarded their third straight home win, where all of the Timbers’ victories have come in their first season as an MLS franchise. Jeld-Wen field has an undeniable atmosphere that would shake any visiting teams’ confidence, and it is something that did not go unnoticed by Real Salt Lake’s players and coaches.

“It’s fantastic,” said Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis in a media statement. “Portland should be proud of themselves and the players should be thrilled that they get to play in this environment every week.”

The Timbers have been treated well by their fans and would like nothing more than to add to their win-streak at home. Portland faces the San Jose Earthquakes tonight at home in a U.S. Open Cup match. The game does not count towards the teams MLS record, but instead helps the Timbers as they try to jockey for positioning in the Open Cup playoffs starting next month.

Portland has two home games left before they go back on the road, where they are currently 0-3-1. The home stand will hopefully give a maturing Timbers roster the confidence to steal a win on the road, something they will need if they plan to make an appearance in the MLS playoffs this season.

It is still very early in the year, but as new players make their way into the starting line-up for the Timbers, they will look to solidify a starting 11 and create a cohesive squad for the rest of the season. The win over Real Salt Lake proved the teams defensive toughness, that was in question only two weeks ago and they will look to build off of the win. Time will tell, but starting 3-0 on your home turf is a good place to be for a new team. ?