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Crystal Palace stuns Portland on the road 1-0.

Palace pull off impressive win on the road (Gary Sheldon/Portland Timbers site)

From Crystal Palace Baltimore:

May 13th 2010 – Baltimore, MD – Previously winless Crystal Palace Baltimore caused the biggest upset of the USSF Division-2 Pro League season defeating the 3-1-0 Timbers in Portland by a one-nil scoreline.  Palace’s Cuban striker Yaikel Perez scored the only goal of the game in the first half off Baltimore native Pat Healey’s cross.  Portland turned it up a notch in the second half but were denied by the woodwork and by heroic efforts from Baltimore ‘keeper Evan Bush and his defense.  The win gives Palace a record of 1-3-1 for four points and moves them out of the bottom spot in the NASL Conference.

After a scrappy opening spell, Portland won the early possession battle, putting together several extended passing sequences but without ever threatening the Palace goal.  After quarter of an hour though it was Baltimore with the first shot on target when Perez fired straight into the arms of Steve Cronin in the Timbers’ goal.  Not long after, Brazilian midfielder Lucio shot just wide of the right post after a nicely worked build-up with Perez.

On 27 minutes Portland had their first scoring opportunity but George Josten’s effort smacked against the bottom of the far post and Bush was able to snag the rebound.

Two minutes later, Pat Healey made a nice move to create room on the right, whipping in a low cross towards the near corner of the penalty area.  With a Portland defender marking him closely, Perez stooped down to place his angled header perfectly between the near post and a motionless Cronin, giving Palace the lead with just their second goal of the season, their first from open play.

Portland coach Gavin Wilkinson was obviously not happy with his team’s performance and took the unusual step of making a pair of tactical substitutions in the middle of the first half, but the changes didn’t have the desired effect and Palace limited the Timbers to just one further chance – Alex Nimo worked himself into space inside the box, crossing for Mandjou Keita eight yards out but he couldn’t get behind the the ball and his header flew over the crossbar.

Palace had one more decent chance in the first half when a well worked series of passes up the right wing eventually reached Gary Brooks with his back to goal just inside the top of the box.  The Jamaican forward laid the ball back for Perez but his shot lacked power and Cronin gathered easily and Baltimore went into the half-time break with the one goal lead.

An even opening ten minutes of the second half saw league-leading scorer Ryan Pore send in a dangerous free kick which Quavas Kirk could only head well over.  At the other end Palace winger Mathew Mbuta launched a missile from distance but straight at Cronin.

On 57 minutes, Palace nearly doubled their advantage as substitute Randi Patterson was released down the left channel and into the box.  The Trinidad and Tobago international held off his marker and took aim at the far post from close range but Cronin managed to pull off a remarkable kick save to keep his side in the contest.

As the half wore on, Portland steadily increased the pressure on the Baltimore defense.  On 65 minutes Bush made a superb, low save of Josten’s powerful header.  Palace weren’t entirely subdued and on 71 minutes, Lucio sent in a dangerous free kick that was nearly redirected goalwards by Andrew Marshall.  But Portland continued to press, laying siege to the Palace goal.  The ever-dangerous Keita, who had struck the post in the first half, was denied by the woodwork twice more in the space of four minutes.

Palace enjoyed a brief respite late in the second half as Jordan Seabrook did well to pull down a high cross on the right edge of the box, but his left-footed snap shot went wide of the near post.

The Timbers best chance to level the score came on 88 minutes when Ryan Pore pounced on a loose ball near the penalty spot, turned and shot only to hit his own teammate in front of goal, the ball deflecting wide for a goal kick.

As regulation time expired, the assistant referee held up the board showing a surprising five minutes of stoppage time.  Evan Bush had to be on his toes three more times as Portland threw everyone forward but Cronin in a desperate search for the equalizer.  In the final minute of added time, George Josten swung his foot at a lobbed cross just yards in front of goal, but he failed to make contact and Bush grabbed the loose ball.

“The guys put in a tremendous performance tonight,” remarked Crystal Palace Baltimore head coach Jim Cherneski after the match.  “We lacked a little confidence in the second half due to our scoring struggles up to now, but we outplayed them and outshot them in the first half.”

“We sat in too much in the second half,” Cherneski continued, “perhaps subconsciously wanting to just preserve the lead. If we’d continued to play the same way we had in the first half, I think we would have kept the ball longer and maybe even added another goal.  Pat Healey delivered a special cross and Perez finished beautifully.  Evan Bush and the back line did an excellent job – it was a tremendous performance all the way down the line.  We still struggled on crosses and we’re going to have to work on that still.  But it’s a good win in front of a great crowd.  Bravo to the city of Portland and to the Timbers organization.  The atmosphere is as good as anything you’ll see anywhere else in the world – it was electric.”

Palace play the penultimate fixture in their five-game string of road games when they take on the Austin Aztex on Sunday at 6:00pm Central (7:00pm Eastern).

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