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Tired Timbers wear down Colorado, tie for first

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Portland Timbers forward/midfielder Darlington Nagbe (left) chases down the ball against Colorado Rapids midfielder Nick LaBrocca in the first half Sunday at Jeld-Wen Field.Playing for the fifth time in the last 15 days, the Portland Timbers looked exhausted Sunday afternoon against the Colorado Rapids.

For the first time this month, the attrition of their hellacious schedule showed up for the Timbers on the pitch.

And, though battle-worn and weary, the Timbers somehow found a way to rise up and meet the challenge presented to them with a 3-0 win.

Frederic Piquionne and Will Johnson scored first-half goals, Ryan Johnson came on as a substitute to score a second-half goal, Rodney Wallace had three assists and the Timbers

extended their franchise record unbeaten streak to 15 matches before an announced sellout crowd of 20,674 at Jeld-Wen Field.

“That was a very professional performance today,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said.

The win put the Timbers (7-1-9, 30 points) even with Real Salt

(9-5-3, 30 points) for the Supporters Shield, the award for the MLS club with the best regular-season record.

“It feels great to be at the top of the table,” Porter said. “But there’s a long way to go. We want to keep growing as a team, and we’re capable of getting better at several areas.”

Over five matches in 15-day stretch, which included two Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup games, the Timbers are 3-0-2.

“I was pleased with how we managed this stretch,” Porter said. “It was a team effort.”

The Timbers finished Sunday's match with .528 percent of the possession, well below its usual mark. Portland also was outshot 18-6. However, the Timbers did what was needed to find a way to win.

It was clear that Colorado (5-7-5, 20 points) knew exactly how tired Portland had to be. From the opening minute, the Rapids were all over the Timbers. Colorado moved the ball into the box and got off two shots within the first 90 seconds. On bothplays, the Timbers back line completely broke down, allowing the Rapids attackers open looks at the net. Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was out of position on both plays and fortunate the shots went wide.

It seemed as though it could be a long afternoon for the Portland lads in green.

In the 12th minute, though, the Timbers used a bit of advantageous cunning to score while Colorado was sitting back on its heels.

After a foul call on the left side of the pitch, 35 yards from goal, Will Johnson took a quick free kick and sent the ball to Wallace in the corner.

Wallace hit a perfect cross into the box, where Piquionne was waiting. Piquionne's header found the net, just under the crossbar.

The 100th goal for the Timbers since entering Major League Soccer gave Portland a 1-0 lead and much needed breathing room against the fresh-legged Rapids.

The goal also took much of the fight out of the Rapids and gave the Timbers a lift.

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Portland Timbers defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste (right) challenges Deshorn Brown of the Colorado Rapids for possession. The Timbers won 3-0 at Jeld-Wen Field.The Timbers took a commanding 2-0 lead in the 44th

minute.Wallace got a ball inside the box and played it behind him to Johnson, who was making a run up the middle. Johnson took a touch with his right boot, let the ball come down to the pitch then buried a left-footed shot just left of the center of the goal.

“It was a great little ball from Rodney,” Johnson said. “He saw me; I was making a late run from the midfield. I figured he would slide it at my feet. I just chipped it up in the air and volleyed it with the left. You don’t know if you’re capable of something like that until you try it.

"It’s part of expressing yourself as a player, trying things like that. Sometimes they come off, most of the time they don’t. When they do, it’s a nice thing.”

The Timbers finished the half with .516 percent of the possession and were outshot by the Rapids 7-4. Colorado failed to put a shot on goal, though, while the two shots that the Timbers put on frame went into the back of the net.

As the second half began, it appeared the Timbers could do little wrong and the Rapids could do little right. Colorado was able to push the ball up the pitch, but its crosses were always well defended and did not result in quality chances.

Things were going so well for the Timbers and so badly for the Rapids that in the 58th minute, Colorado striker Nick LaBrocca had a clean look at an empty net after Ricketts over-committed to a cross. LaBrocca fired from seven yards, only to watch defender Jack Jewsbury knock the ball away just before it crossed the line.

Substitute striker Ryan Johnson scored in the 84th minute off Wallace's cross, which followed a pass by substitute Ben Zemanski.

“It was a link-up play between Zemanski and Wallace and myself,” Johnson said. “We did a good job of getting in the box, and I got into scoring position.”

The Timbers must play again Wednesday in a U.S. Open Cup

quarterfinal match at FC Dallas. Portland will then finally have a chance to breathe, as it will not play until a July 3 international friendly against Mexican side Morelia.

“The Open Cup is very important to us,” Porter said. “We’re going to go all in there.”