By MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, Ore.- For the first time in its MLS franchise history, the Portland Timbers came back from a halftime deficit to win a match, knocking off the Colorado Rapids, 2-1, Friday night at Providence Park.
Maxi Urruti and Diego Valeri’s second half goals overcame an early Deshorn Brown tally as Portland was able to win for the first time at home in more than two months. The victory pushes the Timbers to 24 points with a record of 5-6-9 and bringing them just two points back of fifth-place in the Western Conference standings.
The Timbers double substation of Argentines Urruti and Gaston Fernandez in the 61st minute paired with Colorado having to take Marlon Hairston off due to injury minutes later changed the complexion of the match. Hairston was a constant nuisance while applying pressure on Portland’s back seven.
“Gaston and Maxi going into the game, we thought they could change the game and they did,” head coach Caleb Porter said.”
Just seven minutes after Hairston was replaced, the Timbers strung together a series of passes that eventually ended with Urruti driving a Jack Jewsbury pass over the head of Clint Irwin. It was Urruti’s team-leading seventh goal of the season.
Not to be outdone by his fellow countryman, Valeri delivered the game-winner minutes later when he fired a shot into the goal from 25 yards after finding a hole in Colorado’s defense. The goal, which was Valeri’s fourth of the season, sent the home crowd into a frenzy.
“You need a special play to win the game and there is no more special play than that,” Timbers captain Will Johnson said. “(There’s) no more special player, he’s our man.”
The double switch was rare for Porter, who hadn’t brought two players into a match at the same time since his Timbers coaching debut in March 2013.
“The thought was lets put them both on, and let them get a rhythm together,” Porter said. “We felt we needed a major change to the game, a major boost.”
In addition to the substitutions that swung the momentum in Portland’s favor, Porter flipped Michael Harrington and Jewsbury at halftime, moving Jewsbury to the right side. The switch paid dividends as it was Jewsbury who notched the assist on the first goal.
“Caleb got after it in the locker room at halftime, sorted some things out tactically and then made sure that we knew that we had to do better, we had to work harder, we had to play tactically smarter, and we had to fight for our fans,” Johnson said. “We thought good things would happen and they did.”
The Rapids (7-6-6, 27 points) gained the early lead when a goalmouth scramble saw Deshorn Brown eventually knock the ball over-the-line for his seventh goal of the season. To start the chaos, an unmarked Drew Moor headed down a Dillon Powers corner kick only to be denied by Donovan Ricketts. Brown was first to react and scored on his second rebound attempt.
Brown was the player who forced the corner after bringing down a Powers pass with a nice one-touch and then forcing a Ricketts save. Just eight minutes after his tally, the Jamaican striker was replaced by Danny Mwanga due to a groin strain.
Colorado was unable to withstand the heavy possession that Portland maintained throughout the match. It was not made any easier by the fact the Rapids were without Vicente Sanchez, Nick LaBrocca, and Shane O’Neill due to suspension.
Portland’s newest Designated Player Liam Ridgewell made his debut for the club as the Timbers won after trailing at halftime for the first time in 39 matches in MLS. Despite playing a competitive match on turf for the first time, Porter said Ridgewell was “outstanding” in his MLS debut.
“(Playing on turf) is a little bit different,” Ridgewell said. “It took a little bit getting used to, but like anything you got to get used to it.”
Next up for Portland is a road match with the Montreal Impact on Sunday, July 27th. Colorado will play a second consecutive Friday match when they host Chivas USA on the 25th.