Efficient Timbers top New York City FC
The Timbers didn't spend a lot of time with the ball on Sunday afternoon.
But that was the perfect formula for success in the sunshine at Providence Park.
Sebastian Blanco, Fanendo Adi and Larrys Mabiala scored for Portland, and the Timbers secured their first shutout of the season by quieting one of the hottest attacking teams in MLS.
The 3-0 win over New York City FC was the second in as many weeks for Portland (2-3-2, 8 points). On points, the Timbers are tied for seventh in the Western Conference, though they are ninth in points per game.
For Eastern Conference leader New York City (5-1-2, 17 points), it was the first loss of the season.
"I was very happy with the discipline, the maturity, of our team — in how they approached the match and especially how they worked through the entire match to get a complete result," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. "Very proud of the guys today."
After mis-hitting two good chances in the early moments, Blanco put Portland in front with his second headed goal of the season. In the 26th minute, the 5-7 Argentine out-jumped 5-9 defender Anton Tinnerholm to meet a cross from Andres Flores and send a looping ball beyond the reach of goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
It was the team-leading fourth goal of the season for Blanco — who noted it was nice to score a goal in a victory for the first time this year.
Portland's lead doubled eight minutes later. On a play started when Diego Chara won possession in midfield, Diego Valeri forced Johnson to make a diving stop. But the keeper got just a piece of the ball, which fell into Adi's path for a tap-in finish.
Leads have been shaky things at times for the Timbers this season, and NYC came at the Timbers aggressively in the first 20 minutes of the second half. On one of the first second-half occasions that Portland's counterattack managed to cross midfield, the Timbers earned a corner kick. Mabiala found a gap in the visitors' defense and met Valeri's corner kick head-on from 6 yards out to record his first goal in 21 Timbers appearances.
"We knew they were playing zonal defending on the set pieces. I just tried to go in the emptiest zone," the French center back said.
On an afternoon when the visitors were struggling to find paths through the Timbers' two lines of four defenders, the third goal pretty much ensured Portland would score a meaningful three points.
Statistically, Portland possessed the ball only 25.4 percent of the match. New York City completed 511 more passes. But the Timbers had more shots on target (4-3), took 11 shots to 12 for the visitors, and had a 9-6 edge in corner kicks.
"We played against a team that prepared for the game well, who were well organized," NYC coach Patrick Vieira said. "We had the possession, but it was difficult for us to find space, and they made it difficult for us. They scored goals in the period that it was difficult for us. All the credit to Portland."
Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, in his first start of the season, made three saves, all on attempts from outside the penalty area.
"Defensively, we were really solid, and we limited a very dangerous team to not very many dangerous chances. The team played really well," Attinella said.
The big lineup news was the return of Liam Ridgewell. The center back was not among the 18 players available for the previous four matches. But with Bill Tuiloma injured, Ridgewell put in a strong effort upon his return to the lineup, helping limit David Villa to one shot.
"They're a very good team," Ridgewell said of NYCFC. "They like to move the ball a lot. They like to move positions a lot. They've got a very good attacking front three, and they've got people who can provide the ball. Big for us to stay with our runners and keep compact. They saw a lot of the ball, but they didn't really get anywhere. That was our main objective."
Ridgewell called the last month his worst time in his four-plus seasons in Portland.
"You have disagreements, and you have talkings with managers. I'm outspoken. Every manager is. You've just got to keep your head and keep on playing the way you can play, and I was pleased to be out there to do that today," Ridgewell said.
"Liam had a fantastic match. He was very good today," Savarese said. "He brought in a lot of experience in the back, and I was very pleased with his performance today as part of the entire group."
The third change to the starting lineup from last weekend's win over Minnesota United was inserting Flores on the right side of midfield, in place of Andy Polo. Flores played for Savarese with the New York Cosmos, and the coach said he knew Flores could execute what was needed working with Alvas Powell on Portland's right flank.
The Timbers are idle next weekend. Their next match is on May 5 at San Jose. The next home match is a May 13 visit from Seattle.
• With his assist on Mabiala's goal, Valeri passed John Bain to become the Timbers' assist leader for all eras with 56.
• Rodney Wallace received loud applause when the former Timber — who scored the winning goal in the 2015 MLS Cup win at Columbus — was replaced an hour into the match. "It's awesome," Wallace said. "It's massive to get support from such a huge group of supporters. It's incredible to know they have so much love for me. Like I said, I hold them dearly to my heart just because I was here for such a long time."
• The Timbers are 8-0-3 at Providence Park in matches against teams that entered the week alone atop the MLS standings.
• The Timbers have won a franchise-record eight consecutive regular-season home matches (though they did lose to Houston at home in the playoffs last season).
• The Timbers have 17 wins and two draws in the last 19 regular-season home matches that Ridgewell has started.