by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Sal Zizzo of the Portland Timbers gets tripped up by the Houston Dynamo defense in Friday night's 2-0 Portland loss at Jeld-Wen Field.

Houston Dynamo midfielder Danny Cruz's 59th-minute goal Friday night against the Portland Timbers was as brilliant of a strike as you will ever see.

Cruz got the ball 40 yards from the Portland goal, took a touch and blasted a 38-yard left-footed firecracker to the top left corner.

Defender Mike Chabala failed to close down on Cruz. But from that distance, Chabala said he would do the same thing again.

'I didn't really think that I needed to get touch tight to him that far out,' Chabala said. 'The guy shoots, pulls the trigger from 35-40 (yards) and pulls a laser. It seemed like five, 10 seconds before it hit the back of the net.

'I can put my hand up and say I needed to get closer to the ball. But at that far out, I would play the same against any player in this league. He's not a left- footed player. If that happens 10 out of 10 times again, I guarantee he doesn't hit that shot.'

Timbers coach John Spencer said Cruz will never live long enough to score a goal like that again.

'He'll never score a goal like that in his life again,' Spencer said. 'I know that for sure, 100 percent.'

• The goal was prefaced by Cruz receiving a yellow card in the 51st minute, when he tried to play a ball in the air against Chabala. Cruz ran in for the ball and slammed his shoulder into Chabala's head.

Chabala crumpled to the ground and lay motionless for more than a minute. When he got back up, Chabala appeared unsteady on his feet. The defender said he might have been knocked unconscious.

'I popped back up and thought I was fine,' Chabala said. 'But I may have maybe been out for a second. I don't really remember, to be fair. I was a little knocked up and a little out of it. I'm kind of feeling it now as well.'

Spencer did not believe the foul was a dirty play.

'It was a 40-60 challenge,' Spencer said. 'Danny Cruz came in a little late and basically laid him out. But that's what happens at this time of year. I know Danny well. He's a great little competitor.'

Chabala came back onto the pitch and played another 15 minutes before being giving way to David Horst.

If Chabala is diagnosed with a concussion, it could mean the end of his season, as the MLS has strict concussion rules, much like the NFL.

•• The Timbers suffered another injury when Sal Zizzo went down late in the first half.

While trying to win a ball, Zizzo pulled up lame without any contact. He finished out the half but did not play after that because of a strained left knee. He will have an MRI on Saturday.

'I'll go get an MRI tomorrow,' Zizzo said. 'It's not swollen right now, so the fact that I was able to finish off the half was a good sign. We'll see with the MRI. I don't really know what it is. I felt like a twist. But I don't really know if it was like a pop or a grind.'

••• The injuries to Zizzo and Chabala could be looked at as a product of how physical the match became from the opening whistle. The Dynamo committed 20 fouls, while the Timbers committed 10. Numerous other fouls could have been called against both sides.

Spencer said he did not have an issue with the physicality of the match, however.

'I know Houston very well,' he said. 'It's a big part of the modern game. If you're not physical and you don't have desire and hunger to close your opponent down and win tackles, then you ain't going to win games.

"That's a big part of Houston's game. It's a big part of most successful teams. When you don't have the ball, you're going to have to be aggressive. I don't have a problem with that.'

•••• Friday's match brought about a reunion of the Dynamo and Spencer, as well as Chabala and defender Lovel Palmer, both of whom were traded by the Dynamo at midseason.

Palmer said it was difficult to play against his former teammates, but that he was able to put his friendships aside for 90 minutes.

'It's always going to be tough playing against a bunch of guys I'm still friends with,' Palmer said. 'I had to try my best to block out all the emotions, put the friendship aside and play for 90 minutes, until the game was over. Being a professional, you always have to be able to switch it off and get the work done.'

After the match, Palmer, Spencer and Chabala exchanged hugs and handshakes with Dynamo players.

'Wherever I am, it's a family,' Palmer said. 'I try to get to know guys and build a friendship. Because at the end of the day, when there is no soccer, friendship is always going to be there. So making good friends, that's the most important thing. That's what all three of us did. It was very emotional for us (when) we hugged and we had our handshakes.'

Afterward, the three came back to the locker room to be with the Timbers, who have become their new family.

'We have to come inside our locker room, look the other guys in the face and grieve with them,' Palmer said. 'Because the Portland Timbers, we're a part of this franchise now and this is where the heart is.'

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