After failing to secure a win in their previous four visits to Avaya Stadium in San Jose, the Portland Timbers (3-3-2, 11 pts) finally found their first road win in 2018 thanks to a late Diego Valeri free kick, beating the San Jose Earthquakes (1-5-2, 5 pts) 1-0.
It was not a thrilling contest as both sides struggled to find their footing on a slick pitch, that led to numerous turnovers, disjointed play, horrendous passing, and downright sloppy soccer. For the traveling Timbers Army, Valeri’s free-kick made it all worthwhile.
In the opening half, Portland’s offense came from counter-attacking opportunities and the visitors nearly scored on the handful opportunities they were able to create. Fanendo Adi had two of Portland’s best opportunities at the top of the formation, hitting the post in the eighth minute and put a later chance wide of the net.
With the Timbers allowing them to control possession, the Quakes had a number of chances of their own although they struggled to really test the Timbers defense. Nick Lima nearly snuck a ball into the top near corner while trying to put a cross into the box in the 25th minute but the ball clattered off the post to be cleared by the Timbers. Vako would really test keeper Jeff Attinella in the 32nd minute as he struck a shot from the top of the box that forced Attinella to dive to his right, get a hand on the shot and push the ball wide of the net.
The Quakes attack would fizzle out as the game progressed due to a high number of possessions wasted by poor decision making and a lack of urgency in attacking the Timbers goal. San Jose began to take too many touches and play more conservative passes, allowing Portland to regroup their defenses.
Seeing San Jose beginning to falter, the Timbers began to press more men forward into the attacking third as they looked for the opening goal. While you could see the plays developing and the passing lanes opening up for Portland the players were all too often on the wrong page as dangerous runs were missed and probing passes were left unchallenged.
What did favor the Timbers was San Jose falling back into a physical style of play that has been a calling card of the club since returning to the league in 2008. Although the “Bash Brothers” era of Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon is long gone, Anibal Godoy still embodies the physical play and it cost San Jose on Saturday night. As Samuel Armenteros gets a pass around the top of the box, Godoy steps up and trips Armenteros needlessly in a dangerous position forcing referee Chris Penso to blow for a foul.
From about 25 yards out and nearly straight on to the goal, Valeri stepped up for the free kick and bent it beautifully around the wall and back inside the near post, beating a diving Andrew Tarbell in goal. The Timbers captain celebrated by running to the traveling Timbers fans and blowing them kisses while chased by teammates.
Portland now finds themselves on a three-game unbeaten run and will return home to Providence Park for the 100th meeting between the Timbers and their most hated rivals, Seattle Sounders FC (1-4-2, 5 pts).