For 75 minutes, the Portland Timbers dominated Sunday nights MLS match against the San Jose Earthquakes. The Timbers controlled the possession and moved the ball into dangerous positions.
The only thing Portland did not do in those 75 minutes was put the ball into the back of the net.
A 76th-minute goal on a free kick by midfielder Will Johnson changed that, though.
San Jose midfielder Ramiro Corrales was called for a hard tackle on Timbers midfielder Kalif Alhassan, 22 yards from the Earthquakes goal.
Johnson then sent a blistering shot above the wall of Earthquake players. The ball curved to the left and rose as it traveled, finding the top left corner, well beyond the reach of goalkeeper Jon Busch.
"It was a good distance out to get it up and down, Johnson said. I just wanted to get it over the wall. I wanted to hit it with enough pace to get it up and down and make sure the goalie couldnt get up and grab it. It doesnt always work out, but it did this time.
The goal was all the Timbers needed for a 1-0 victory before an announced sellout crowd of 20,674 at Jeld-Wen Field.
Its another positive step along this journey for where we want to be at the end of the year, Timbers coach Caleb Porter said. Three points again, we earned it. We were the team that was controlling the game, playing to win. It took a set piece, but winning teams find a goal somewhere. Its a credit for what this group is about.
The Timbers (2-1-3, 9 points) have won their last two matches.
Portland will face the Earthquakes (2-3-2, 8 points) again next Sunday in San Jose.
The Timbers came out ready to play at Jeld-Wen. For most of the game, San Joses defense was up for the challenge, though.
While Portland controlled the early possession, the Earthquakes did not allow the Timbers clean looks at the goal.
Around the 15-minute mark, the Earthquakes began showing more initiative on offense, moving the ball up the pitch and forcing the Timbers' back line to work for their living.
The Earthquakes put a shot on goal in the 15th and 25th minute. Both shots went directly to Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, however, and there was no damage.
In the 27th minute, midfielder Darlington Nagbe had an opportunity to put Portland up by a goal when he broke into the 18-yard box unmarked. But Nagbes shot went into the waiting arms of Busch, and the match remained scoreless.
In the first half, the Timbers had .626 percent of the possession.
We were very patient and methodical, Porter said.
The Timbers became even more dangerous in the second half, though, sending crosses into the box for open runners. As each cross left the boot of a Portland attacker it seemed filled with unlimited potential. The ball was always just a little too far ahead of the runner, or else a little too far behind the runner, though.
The Timbers caught a break in the 68th minute, when striker Alan Gordon was sent off the pitch for his second yellow card.
Gordon picked up his first yellow card in the 41st minute for a hard tackle on midfielder Diego Chara. In the 68th minute, Gordon and Portland defender Mikael Silvestre both went up for a ball at midfield. As he leaped, Gordons elbow caught Silvestre in the mouth. Silvestres lip exploded in blood. When play stopped, he ran to Gordon, shoving him backward. After separating Silvestre and Gordon, referee Hilario Grajeda handed Gordon his second yellow card of the night and sent him to the showers.
Playing with 11 versus 10, Portland started attacking even more, throwing numbers forward, desperately trying to find a goal.
Finally, it came.
After the goal, the Timbers did not stop forcing the issue. They continued pressing forward, leaving San Jose little opportunity to try to find the equalizer. Portland finished the match with .629 percent of the possession.
During the four minutes of stoppage time, the Earthquakes were able to stifle the Timbers' attack enough to move the ball up the pitch. San Jose was unable to put the ball in the back of the net, though, and the Timbers walked off the pitch with three points.
Portland also won at home last week, beating Houston 2-0.
Two games, two clean sheets, Porter said. I knew we had it in us to be a good defensive team.
Now, Portland must try to duplicate the performance on the road.
We need to make sure we keep progressing, Porter said. The biggest enemy of progress is past success. Weve got to turn around and go to San Jose and theyre not going to be happy. Its going to be a battle.