By MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, Ore. – Both FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers were looking for a win Saturday to solidify both their spot in the conference standings and to end winless streaks.
Unfortunately for FC Dallas, the Timbers came out on top and kept the Texas side winless since May.
In a match that showcased both flashy finishes and numerous hard challenges, the Portland Timbers defeated FC Dallas Saturday night at Jeld-Wen Field, by the score of 2-1.
Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe found the scoring column for Portland as the Timbers ended a three-game winless streak. Meanwhile, Mauro Diaz’s goal in his first career MLS start wasn’t enough to keep FC Dallas from its 11th consecutive game without a victory. The game was filled with both counters and numerous set pieces, but it lacked long stretches of possession for either side.
“In MLS, that’s sometimes that is what it takes,” manager Caleb Porter said. “It’s not always going to be pretty and you have to grind through it and get it done and these guys did it.”
Diego Valeri continued his stellar form assisting on both Timbers goals, bringing his season total to ten. The Argentine has also assisted on each of the club’s last six goals in MLS play. In his first season in MLS, the DP has proven his worth for Portland.
“He’s exactly what we thought he’d be and what we wanted him to be. He’s a playmaker, he’s a final passer, he’s a guy who sets people up,” Porter said. “He’s been tremendous this year and we’re really happy to have him here for quite a few more years.”
While his first assist came on a corner kick that found Johnson’s head, his second one was a beautiful toed ball that cleared an open path for Nagbe. Nagbe left Raul Fernandez no chance as Nagbe delivered his fourth goal against Dallas this season in all competitions.
The goal was the third in a seven-minute stretch in the first half and was the last goal that would be scored in the match. Fullbacks Michael Harrington and Alvas Powell delivered key plays as the Timbers held on in front of a raucous Timbers Army.
“A lot of times it’s about managing the game and I thought we managed it brilliantly in the last 2o minutes,” Porter said.
Valeri wasn’t the only Argentine Designated Player who delivered for his club Saturday. Just two minutes after Portland’s first goal, the 22-year-old Diaz got on the scoresheet for FC Dallas after he found a seam in the middle of Timbers penalty area and calmly finished before Donovan Ricketts could close him down. Diaz was set up on the play after a one-two combination between Fabian Castillo and Blas Perez.
However, Diaz’s goal was one-upped when Nagbe delivered the winner five minutes later.
“We were determined to get a good result,” Ricketts said. “When we gave away a goal, we knew we had to score, so they didnt have life to give us a fight.”
Even in the losing effort, Dallas was able to generate some offense, especially when Castillo and Jackson were given space. Despite some decent looks, the club only mustered four shots-on-target.
“That’s a talented team, we didn’t underestimate them,” Porter said. “They’ve got as much talent on that team, individually, as any team in the league.”
FC Dallas will look for the their first win since May 25 with a Wednesday night match at Chivas USA.
Portland’s victory sets up a Wednesday showdown with Real Salt Lake at Jeld-Wen Field. A Portland win would bring the Timbers even with RSL at the top of the Western Conference standings. The game is also a rematch of the US Open Cup semifinal that saw Real Salt Lake get the victory.
“I think the guys want to, if we can, make amends for the loss. But in the end, it’s just an opportunity for three points,” Porter said.