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Timbers hang on again, win 3-2

by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Portland Timbers forward Kenny Cooper celebrates his goal in Sunday's 3-2 home win over FC Dallas.

The Portland Timbers played 82 minutes of brilliant soccer Sunday afternoon at Jeld-Wen Field to take a 3-0 lead against FC Dallas. But, with the celebratory flags of the Timbers Army poised to begin billowing in the wind, FC Dallas came roaring back to life, scoring in the 83rd and 86th minutes.

With Dallas pushing numbers and sending a barrage of shots on goal in stoppage time, the Timbers looked as though they might crumple like a house of cards. But no matter how hard Dallas huffed and puffed, the house would not come down, as Portland held on to win 3-2 before an announced sellout crowd of 18,627.

'That's soccer,' Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson said. 'It takes a second to change a game.'

Timbers coach John Spencer came into the post-match interview looking emotionally drained, even though Portland (2-2-1, 7 points) came out of its two-match home stand with its first two wins of the season.

'You wouldn't be smiling if you had to go through 180 minutes of what I've had to go through over the last four days,' Spencer said. 'We know we can't keep scoring three goals at home and struggling. Not struggling, but hanging on to games. It's hard to ask forwards and midfield players to score multiple goals. I really, really wanted to keep a clean sheet today.'

Until the final 10 minutes, the Timbers dominated the flow of battle. On Portland's possessions, the forwards and midfielders moved freely through a wide-open pitch. When FC Dallas (1-3-1, 4 points) had the ball, the Timbers' tight marking prevented Dallas players from using any creativity.

The Timbers drew first blood in the 13th minute. Kalif Alhassan sent a pass to Jack Jewsbury on the right side of the 18-yard box. Jewsbury took a touch from 16 yards and fired at the near post. The ball banged off the post, hit FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman in the back and ricocheted into the net.

'We've put an emphasis on the first 15 minutes of games,' said Jewsbury, who was playing in his 200th career MLS match. 'Early in the season, we had some lulls at that point. Now we're coming out of the gate stronger. It's getting us off on the right page and definitely making games easier on ourselves.'

The Timbers went up 2-nil in the 35th minute, when Jewsbury lined up for a corner kick on the left side. Jewsbury sent a high lob to the middle of the 6-yard box. The ball was so perfectly placed the only player who had a chance for it was 6-3 striker Kenny Cooper. Cooper out-leaped two FC Dallas defenders and sent a vicious header just to the right of the diving Hartman.

'I hope that's something I can give the team is using my height to help them,' Cooper said. 'Jack is really good on set pieces, and he puts a great ball in. He may make it easier on everyone when he's putting those great services in.'

The Timbers went up by three goals in the 55th minute, as Alhassan got perhaps the most dubious assist of his life.

Alhassan made a gorgeous run through the 18-yard box, splitting through four FC Dallas defenders. As Alhassan tried to center the ball inside the 6-yard box to get off a shot, Rodney Wallace came in unmarked and blazed a shot to the top corner of the far post.

'I was looking for myself to get that,' Alhassan said, laughing. 'I didn't lose it. I was creating it for myself to shoot it. Rodney Wallace was like, 'OK, Kalif, thank you.' I saw Rodney, and I was like, 'OK'. Rodney took it, and it was fantastic.'

Wallace has scored two goals in the Timbers' last two matches. Perhaps because he was criticized for a slow start, he became indignant when he was asked if he felt 'a little guilty' about cleaning up on Alhassan's run.

'I didn't see the play, man,' Wallace said. 'I just saw the ball poke out, and I just finished. That's part of the game, you know. Maybe, if I…no. It's part of the game.'

Nearly dead, FC Dallas rallied behind David Ferreira and Brek Shea.

In the 83rd minute, Shea took the ball along the left touchline and centered it to Ferreira, who sent in an 8-yard shot to the far post.

In the 86th minute, Ferreira returned the favor, finding Shea streaking unmarked into the middle of the 18-yard box. The pass hit Shea perfectly in stride. After taking a touch, Shea sent in a 10-yard shot to Gleeson's right.

FC Dallas did everything it could to score the equalizer in stoppage time, including bringing Hartman out of goal on a corner kick. It was all in vain, though. Gleeson made a clutch save, an FC Dallas shot banged off the crossbar and Portland had three points.

'You've just got to weather the storm in those situations,' Timbers defender Eric Brunner said. 'They were pushing everyone on us. Guys stepped up. We wanted to win.'

The Timbers will now be faced with the challenge of carrying their success at home onto the road. They travel to Los Angeles to play the Galaxy on Saturday.

'It doesn't matter whether you play away from home, it doesn't matter whether you play at home,' Spencer said. 'You've got to go out there and try and win games. I don't care where we play. We'll enjoy ourselves tonight and then plan for the Galaxy starting Monday morning.'