Timbers win first MLS home match 4-2
In soccer, the destiny of a side is said to be written in the stars. There were no stars out Thursday night, only heavy clouds and rain. Perhaps, though, for a club from Portland, the Timbers' destiny can as easily be written in the rain.
No script could have been written more perfectly for the Timbers than the one that played out, especially early, in their first home match at Jeld-Wen Field against the Chicago Fire.
The Timbers' offense had stardust in its feet. Forward Jorge Perlaza scored two goals and propelled Portland to a 4-2 victory - the Timbers' first MLS win - before an announced sellout crowd of 18,627.
'Apart from my wife giving birth to children, this is the best feeling I have ever experienced,' Timbers coach John Spencer said.
The Timbers (1-2-1, 4 points) seemed to have unlimited energy throughout the night. Time and again, they attacked the weak backline of the Fire (1-2-1, 4 points). By the end of the match, the Timbers had outshot the Fire 13-9, putting four balls on goal to Chicago's two.
In the 11th minute, midfielder Jack Jewsbury took a corner kick from the left side that found striker Kenny Cooper inside the 6-yard box. Cooper headed in the ball to the right of Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson - but Cooper was robbed of becoming the first Timber to score at Jeld-Wen Field when the referee ruled that Jewsbury's corner kick had curved across the back line before it came to Cooper.
The disallowed goal would not matter much, though.
In the 29th minute, Perlaza received a pass from Kalif Alhassan around midfield and made a run down the left touch line, past two Fire defenders into the box. From 5 yards, Perlaza rolled a soft shot on the ground to the bottom corner of the far post, and Portland had a 1-0 lead.
The Colombian scored his second goal in the 47th minute to give the Timbers a 3-0 lead. After Johnson misplayed a shot by Rodney Wallace, Perlaza pounced on the ball inside the box and slipped it into the back of the net.
'It was very motivating,' Perlaza said, through an interpreter. 'I was looking for that (first) goal. Thank God it came at the right time and it came here at the first home game. It has me very happy.'
The Timbers went up two-nil in the 37th minute. After a hard Chicago foul on defender Steve Purdy, Jewsbury took a free kick. The ball was defended by the Fire and, like a gift from the gods, it bounced out to Wallace, 22 yards away from the goal on the left side of the pitch. Wallace took a touch and sent a laser to the bottom corner of the far post.
'The ball popped out,' Wallace said. 'I followed up the play and tried to hit it far post, and it got there - and goal. It's always a good feeling when you score, especially on a night like this, the first home game.'
After going up 3-nil, the Timbers became a bit lackadaisical.
In the 65th minute, Fire midfielder Marco Pappa made a run down the middle of the pitch. Timbers defender Eric Brunner caught up to Pappa inside the box. Brunner slid in to challenge Pappa, but knocked the ball into the net, to the left of goalkeeper Jake Gleeson.
'I was trying to get a poke on it,' Brunner said. 'He may have gotten a little touch on it right before I hit it, and it just kind of skipped off at a weird angle and just went in. I tried to make a play on it, and it was just unfortunate.'
The Fire got within striking distance in the 80th minute, when Pappa got a pass from Dominic Oduro and buried a 12-yard shot to the top corner of the near post.
'We lost the composure a little bit, giving the ball away," Spencer said. "We stopped doing the things that got us 3-nil up. We weren't moving the ball quick enough. Everybody just wanted to put their foot on the ball and say, 'Here, look, I'm sponsored by Nike.' You can't do that, because good players will punish you, and that's what they did.'
The Timbers put the match away in the 84th minute, though. After a Jewsbury free kick, the ball got tangled up between several Timbers and Fire players before Fire defender Dasan Robinson knocked in an own goal.
Despite the uplifting victory, Spencer knows the Timbers still have a hard road to travel in their inaugural MLS season, starting with Sunday's 3 p.m. match at home against FC Dallas.
'We've got to climb the ladder again,' Spencer said. 'I just said to the guys, 'Congratulations, first win in the history of the franchise, we need to now go and on Sunday play a tremendous Dallas team. Enjoy it tonight, back in practice tomorrow and focus on coming back and doing this again on Sunday.' '
No one knows how the script for the Timbers' destiny will read as the season progresses. On Thursday night, though, the script written in rain had a Hollywood ending.
'It was just such a great privilege to be out there playing in front of those fans,' Cooper said. 'It was just a magical night.'