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Timbers nearly perfect

TRIBUNE PHOTO: TAL VOLK - Liam Ridgewell attempts to score for the Portland Timbers.Things could not have gone much better for the Portland Timbers on Tuesday night.

Behind a youthful attack and a near-perfect defensive effort, they defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 before 16,834 fans at Providence Park and moved on to the round of 16 in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

With an important MLS match against Real Salt Lake coming up on Saturday night, Timbers coach Caleb Porter fielded a starting 11 that included seven players age 25 or younger, a move aimed at keeping some of his veterans fresh for the weekend.

Midfielder Dairon Asprilla, 24, netted the opening goal in the 34th minute and forward Jack McInerney, 23, followed suit with a 40th-minute goal off a free kick.

Portland’s defense took care of the rest.

“Everything went exactly the way we had hoped,” Porter said. “In thinking about RSL, I give a lot of credit to my staff, because we spent a lot of time trying to figure out the right way to go, and I thought it paid off today.

“It puts us in a position where we have a bunch of fresh guys going into that league game. We got the result and move on in the competition.”

Asprilla’s goal came after the ball deflected to him in front of the goal. San Jose keeper Bryan Meredith got a piece of Asprilla’s shot, but the ball still managed to trickle into the net. McInerny’s goal was much more forceful, bending over San Jose’s wall and just out of reach of the outstretched arms of Meredith.

“For a striker, I’m taking my chances well, and the coaching staff is happy,” McInerney said. “Hopefully that can continue for the rest of the season.”

Portland’s defense held San Jose to seven shots, none on target versus goalkeeper Jake Gleeson.

“We’re getting into our stride at the minute, and denying people shots and space and crosses is always a big part of it,” defender Liam Ridgewell said. “I’m pleased with tonight to get the clean sheet and obviously (with) the boys to get the win.”

Porter said the Timbers’ injuries have helped strengthen the team.

“The first 15 games, having to play so many guys because of injuries has really helped us,” he said. “It hasn’t always been perfect, we dropped some points because of it, but now that we hit the midseason and on with these competitions kicking in, we have guys that have played.”

Veteran midfielder Jack Jewsbury saw evidence of that in Tuesday’s match.

“The majority of the guys that played in the game tonight, whether it be because of injuries or just getting plugged into the lineup, have played major minutes for us, so we knew what to expect,” Jewsbury said. “There’s some consistency sometimes that you wonder about, but everybody tonight when their number was called put in a great shift.”

The Timbers will find out who they play in the next round later this week, when the fifth-round draw takes place. With at least another U.S. Open Cup game confirmed, and MLS play ongoing and the CONCACAF Champions League beginning later this summer, the Timbers have their sights set on taking three trophies.

“We want to win all three,” McInerney said. “Tonight, focus was on the Open Cup. Win five games and we win a trophy. It switches this weekend to league play and a tough opponent, so we’ve got to be ready for that.”

Porter said he is happy, because he knows what all his players are capable of.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys back; we’ve got a lot of evidence to go on now to make decisions. It’s going to be fun to pick the lineup every week,” Porter said. “Good thing is I don’t think we can make too many bad decisions because we now know what guys can do.”

Twitter: @NMeadowcroft