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  • 23 Nov 2014

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Timbers pull away from Toronto

The Portland Timbers desperately needed a win Saturday night to buoy their playoff hopes.

The Timbers entered the match against Toronto FC winless in their previous three outings and coming off a 4-2 blowout by Real Salt Lake. In the ultra-competitive MLS Western Conference, the difference between first and sixth place (top top five make the playoffs) is just eight points. With only eight matches remaining, the Timbers knew they needed every point they could earn.

Portland did exactly what it needed to do against Toronto. The Timbers dominated, keeping .656 percent of the possession. And goals by Kalif Alhassan, Rodney Wallace, Will Johnson and Diego Valeri led to a 4-0 win before an announced sellout crowd of 20,674 at Jeld-Wen Field.

“As much possession as we had, we knew they were going to wear down,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said. “(The win) is big. The last nine games have been tough. We’ve dealt with a lot.”

Portland (10-5-12, 42 points) is tied with Colorado for fourth in the Western Conference. The Timbers are by no means in a comfortable position, though. Points will continue to come at a premium. Starting with next Saturday’s road match against Chivas USA, six of the Timbers' final seven matches will come against conference opponents.

“We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves,” Porter said. “We’re going to focus on the next game, which is Chivas.”

The Timbers had .709 percent of the possession in the first half but struggled to get good, clean looks, finishing with 11 shots, but only two on goal.

Portland nearly got a goal in the 31st minute, when midfielder Kalif Alhassan had a quality look at goal from 10 yards, but he banged his shot off the right post.

Alhassan soon made up for the near-miss, however, and sent Portland into halftime with a 1-0 lead.

In stoppage time, a Timbers free kick bounced around the box before a Toronto defender mis-cleared it. The ball came to Alhassan, 17 yards from goal. He played it off his chest, took it to the ground and then sent a rocket to the top right corner.

The Timbers continued dominating in the second half. Toronto (4-13-10, 22 points) had little chance of finding the back of the net.

In the 83rd minute, Portland added an insurance goal. Valeri, who subbed into the match in the 77th minute, won a ball in the attacking third and played it into the box, where Wallace was making a run. Wallace got to the ball unmarked, with only Toronto goalkeeper Joe Bendik to beat. Wallace sent a ball to the lower corner, near the left post, and the Timbers were on top 2-0.

The Timbers turned the match into a rout in the 87th minute, when Johnson put them ahead 3-0.

Portland striker Jose Valencia won a ball at the top of the 18-yard box and played it into Johnson. When the ball reached him, Johnson was alone, 10 yards from goal, and he effortlessly placed the ball inside the left post.

“I don’t know if he was trying to play it to me or not,” Johnson said. “It was a late run from the midfield, and I went one-on-one with the keeper, made a move on him and just tucked it away.”

Portland added another goal in stoppage time when Valencia slipped a pass into the 6-yard box. Valeri got behind the Toronto defense, and all he had to do was tap the ball into the back of the net.

NOTES: Johnson (shoulder) made his first appearance in four matches. On top of scoring a goal, Johnson earned a yellow card in the 39th minute when he argued that referee Armando Villarreal allowed Toronto to line up too close to a free kick. … Goalkeeper Milos Kocic made his first start in goal for the Timbers, replacing Donovan Ricketts, who was called up for national team duty with Jamaica. Kocic, a 6-4, 200-pounder from Serbia, played for Toronto FC from 2010-2012. Kocic finished the match with two saves. … Striker Ryan Johnson and defender Alvas Powell also were called up for the Jamaican national team. … Bright Dike was on Portland's 18-man roster for the first time this season. Dike has missed the entire season since suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in a preseason match. Dike did not play.