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WEDNESDAY MLS RECAP/High-priced Argentine strikes as substitute in his debut, Portland ties Houston 1-1

Brian Fernandez scored in his debut to earn the Portland Timbers a 1-1 draw with the Dynamo before an announced crowd of 13,327 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.

Fernandez scored the tying goal in the 77th minute, about 12 minutes after entering his first MLS match. Breaking behind the Houston defense, Fernandez collected a ball lofted from the defensive half by Sebastian Blanco, trapped the pass with his right foot and, after a touch, placed the ball beyond the reach of onrushing goalkeeper Joe Willis from 18 yards.

Mauro Manotas had scored for Houston in the 40th minute.

The Timbers are 3-6-2 (11 points) and tied with San Jose for ninth place in the Western Conference.

The Dynamo are 6-2-2 (20) and 5-0-2 at home.

Fernandez arrived in Portland on May 6 after the Timbers spent a club-record fee to acquire the Argentine forward from Mexican club Necaxa. The Timbers became more dangerous on the attack from the moment the 24-year-old entered the match as a 65th-minute replacement for Andy Polo.

"I am very happy," Fernandez said through an interpreter. "It (took) a great effort for me to be here and the least thing I can do is repay them, doing my very best and scoring goals like I did today."

Fernandez lined up alongside Jeremy Ebobisse, and later Tomas Conechny as coach Giovanni Savarese shifted his formation. Fernandez sent his first shot high but delivered a quality finish after cleverly timing his run behind the defense to stay onside.

"He was a threat as soon as he jumped onto the field," Savarese said. "He told me, 'I'm going to score' and he did.

"It was great, but it wasn't only him. I think the entire group fought to make sure he came into a game that we're playing well."

Fernandez wasn't the only Timber to come up big. Goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, who had little chance on the Houston goal, was credited with eight saves in his return to the starting lineup. Also playing strong games in returning to the lineup were left back Jorge Villafana, who neutralized speedy Alberth Elis, and center back Julio Cascante, who teamed with Bill Tuiloma with strong one-on-one defending.

Playing without Diego Chara, suspended for yellow card accumulation, Savarese went with Renzo Zambrano alongside Cristhian Paredes as the holding midfield pairing. But Paredes left the game with what appeared to be a left leg injury a half-hour in, replaced by Andres Torres. Paredes was able to walk off the field.

Portland started well and created four near misses in the first half hour. The best of those was an Ebobisse chance that he mis-hit with his right foot from six yards after making a nice run to meet a Blanco delivery.

The momentum shifted around the time Paredes left the game.

Manotas put Houston on the board when left unmarked by Portland right back Jorge Moreira. Manotas was able to steer a deflected corner kick off the post and over the line.

The Timbers visit Philadelphia on May 25, the last road game before the re-opening of Providence Park on June 1 against Los Angeles FC.

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