By JOSE M. ROMERO
The San Jose Earthquakes saved their very best for the final moments of their U.S. Open Cup match Tuesday night against the Portland Timbers, and made a little history in the process.
Ike Opara headed in a cross from Sam Cronin in the 120th minute of a match that went into two extra-time sessions, giving the Quakes a 1-0 win and their first U.S. Open Cup qualifier victory since they became a franchise again in 2008, while handing the Timbers their first loss of 2011 at Jeld-Wen Field.
Portland was eliminated from the competition. San Jose moves on to face the Chicago Fire in the next round.
The Earthquakes got the job done despite a game effort from a team made up of mainly Timbers' substitutes, as Portland has an MLS match against Philadelphia on Friday night. San Jose earned the right to host the match but Buck Shaw Stadium was not available to them.
A first half of not much excitement gave way to a foul-plagued yet more action-packed second half in front of 11,412 fans. Timbers midfielder James Marcelin took a long-distance shot in the 15th minute that Earthquakes goalkeeper Andrew Weber stopped. A sign of good things to come for Opara came in the 27th minute, when, in going for a header, he got inside defenders for a collision with Portland keeper Troy Perkins.
Before halftime, midfielder Khari Stephenson whiffed on a cross from Ryan Johnson despite having no defender in front of him.
In the second half, both teams took their shots at one another. The more physical matchups were Portland's Ryan Pore against San Jose's Chris Wondolowski and the Timbers' Sal Zizzo against defender Ramiro Corrales of the Quakes.
Johnson had a shot deflected over the goal by Perkins in the 75th minute.
Steven Lenhart appeared to have scored for San Jose in the 14th minute of the first overtime session but the goal was waved off when it was ruled a handball.
Both teams wore each other out and the match looked headed for PKs, but Opara got free for the winner. The Timbers had a corner kick as the seconds ticked down but failed to convert.