In a Thursday match before almost 15,000 fans at PGE Park, the Portland Timbers drew with the visiting Austin Aztex 1-1. Austin, having already clinched a USSF D2 playoff spot, played a man down for over 35 minutes, but were able to keep the Timbers from adding a winning goal in a wild and entertaining match. The result leaves the Timbers in third place in the USL Conference standings and in the fourth position in the USSF D2 playoff table, while Austin is now only three points behind first place Rochester with three games in hand.
The contest featured the two leading scorers in USSF D2, Portland’s midfielder Ryan Pore and Austin’s forward Eddie Johnson. As fate would have it, neither play would score a goal, although Johnson earned an assist.
Timbers’ forward Bright Dike has established himself as an emerging star, and earned his fifth goal in league play with a 4th minute strike on a one on one breakaway with Aztex’ goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo and won the duel. Austin equalized in the 26th minute when Eddie Johnson passed the ball back to midfielder Sullivan Silva, and the Brazilian’s low shot beat Steve Cronin and went into the back of the Timbers’ net, and the half ended tied at 1-1.
In the second half, both teams looked for the go-ahead goal, as Eddie Johnson looked threatening and Ibad Muhamadu sending a nice cross into the box that Gallardo was able to snatch away from danger. In the 56th minute, though, Austin defender Kieron Bernard received his second yellow card and was ejected from the game. Austin Coach Adrian Heath responded by making a tactical switch, substituting defender Sam Brill for talented forward Maxwell Griffin, and the 10 man Aztex squad was able to hold off the Timbers the rest of the game.
Eddie Johnson had the best chance to get the winner for the Aztex in the 63rd minute, as he received a ball in the box that pulled Portland goalkeeper Steve Cronin out of the net. Johnson, however, did not hit his shot cleanly, and Portland’s Mamadou “Futty” Danso cleared the ball off the goal line. Alex Nimo immediately responded for the Timbers, but his low shot went just wide of net.
The contest started getting more off-key as Aztex’ Coach Adrian Heath was ejected from the game near the 70th minute mark. I wonder what he said to be ejected? Portland held the high-scoring Aztex, but couldn’t capitalize on the man advantage. Late in the game, Gallardo made a save on a header and Portland defender Ian Joy buzzed Gallardo, clipping him from out of nowhere as Gallardo held the ball for the save. Joy was given a yellow card for his unnecessary contact with Gallardo, and teammate Rodrigo Lopez was shown a red card as pushing and shoving between the teams broke out. The last minutes of stoppage time was played with each team down to ten men.
Gavin Wilkinson’s Timbers are to be commended for holding the league’s highest scoring team to only six shots in the contest and no corner kicks. Cronin did not have to make a save, although Danso’s 63rd minute goal line clearance prevented a sure goal for Austin. The Timbers look to have found a quality pairing upfront with Dike and Muhamadu, and are undefeated in their last four games, achieving a 9-7-8 mark on the season. The Aztex now are at 13-3-6, and did well to hold Portland scoreless after Dike’s early goal despite missing defender Jay Needham, who was hurt in Sunday’s clash with Carolina.
The Aztex continue their Northwest road trip with a Sunday dinnertime match in Vancouver. Portland host the struggling Crystal Palace Baltimore team Sunday at PGE Park, and look to avenge an early season home loss to the Baltimore team. Sunday’s game will be televised on Fox Sports NorthWest, along with being streamed online.
Portland Starting Lineup: Cronin, Smith, Purdy, Joy, Danso,Savage, Pore, Nimo, Marcelin, Muhamadu, Dike Subs Used: Suzuki, Clasesson, Lopez
Austin Starting Lineup: Gallardo, L.Watson, Marshall, L.Griffin, Bernard,Silva, Sakuda, Callahan, Alvarez, Johnson, M.Griffin Subs Used; Brill, J.Watson, Patterson