BY BRADEN JOHNSON/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/'Last year, I might have rushed that shot,' says second-year forward from Duke

Second-year forward Jeremy Ebobisse made his first start of 2018 in the Portland Timbers' 2-0 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup win over San Jose on Wednesday. 

He made the most of it, too, netting his goal at Providence Park for the Timbers.

The 27th-minute tally helped send the Timbers to the round of 16.  

Ebobisse stole the ball from midfielder Fatai Alashe, who was attempting to dribble upfield. Ebobisse poked his right leg inside to snatch the ball, then cut and dribbled to his left toward the outside of the goal box. 

Ebobisse again juked to his left, forcing another defender to slip. With an open look at the goal, Ebobisse collected himself and fired a strike to the top-left corner of the net. The shot continued to rise, giving goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell no chance to get a hand on the ball. 

"I just saw Alashe, they were holding him, and I was in his blind side," Ebobisse said. "So I knew he was going to try and turn out. I was lucky to get that first touch toward the goal." 

Ebobisse's quick score came at a point where Portland had dominated time of possession but enjoyed only one open look at the goal, in the 10th minute. 

Ebobisse, a first-round draft choice out of Duke last year, has primarily played for Timbers 2 in the United Soccer League. While San Jose played many of its starters, Portland coach Giovanni Saverese gave his younger players a run. 

"They're fit, and they've been able to jump into this game today feeling good," the coach said. "These minutes are going to be important for these guys to build confidence and contribute to the first team. They are the youth of the club and have shown a lot of good things." 

Ebobisse, 21, said his first year playing in the Timbers organization improved his maturity and composure. He played in 14 matches for the Timbers in 2017 — scoring his first MLS goal last July in a match at Vancouver — but said the competition on Timbers 2 helps manage expectations. 

"Last year as a rookie, I was almost in awe of every situation I found myself in on the field," he said. "This year, I've been able to take a step back, find some composure, and I think it showed on that goal. Last year, I might have rushed that shot." 

Ebobisse's goal also helped him move past a hamstring injury that forced him to miss four games in April and May. Every player and coach pushed him along his recovery and to return at full strength, he said. 

The young forward said Portland's offensive chemistry against the Earthquakes also circled back to the time he has spent training with and scrimmaging against the starting 11. The Timbers completed 90 percent of their passes and had six shots on target to San Jose's one. 

"We have a really good team environment," Ebobisse said. "All the young guys can step in and feel comfortable. They'll dig into you if you do something wrong or have the wrong attitude. But that's what need. We need young guys to keep us motivated and not act like we've made it, because we haven't." 

For the first time, Ebobisse faced the question of what to do with the log slice that Timber Joey cut for hor him. 

For a moment, he seemed stumped by the question. 

"I'll get it cleaned up, put it in my apartment, maybe have the team sign it," he said. "I was going to carve a table out of it, but I don't know how practical that would be in my small apartment." 

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