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SUNDAY MLS RECAP/Sebastian Blanco goal, strong defensive performance produce 1-0 win over New York City FC

Brian Fernandez's scoring streak is over.

So is New York City FC's 12-match unbeaten run.

Sebastian Blanco scored in the 14th minute and the Portland Timbers posted their third shutout in four games in a 1-0 Sunday win at Yankee Stadium.

The Timbers improved to 7-8-2 (23 points) as they hit the midpoint of their 34-game schedule. Portland moved to ninth in the MLS Western Conference, four points off the seventh-place playoff line.

New York City FC, which lost for the first time at home this season, is 7-2-8 (29), fifth in the Eastern Conference.

Both teams had rotated lineups, Portland at the start of a busy run of games and New York City because of injuries and international absences.

"We had to deal with a lot. But the sacrifice of the guys, the unity, the commitment … was fantastic," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said.

Blanco pounced on a loose ball in the penalty area for his third goal of the season, and the earliest Portland has scored this season.

Diego Valeri took a free kick from the left wing. With New York City playing a high defensive line, Valeri lofted his free kick into the box. A missed touch by a defender gave Blanco a chance, and he was able to spin the ball into the goal with a well-played right-footed shot.

New York City dominated possession (68 percent percent) and spent much of the last 15 minutes peppering the Portland penalty area. But the Timbers kept their defensive poise, blocked some shots and got some big plays from goalkeeper Steve Clark, who made five saves and a few other key interventions.

Nine Portland players cleared the ball from in or around the defensive penalty areas. Blanco had a couple of important blocks late in the second half.

Fernandez had scored in each of his first five MLS appearances (and his first seven, including Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup games). He didn't score on Sunday, but he was dangerous.

Fernandez put the ball in the net in the 83rd minute, but the goal was erased by an offside call.

In the 65th minute, he had a great look blocked by Sebastien Ibeagha.

In the 63rd minute, he converted a second ball from a corner kick but was narrowly offside.

Portland had a couple of other opportunities to double its lead, the best for Jeremy Ebobisse, who had an open goal but hit the post in the 76th minute.

Early in the match, Fernandez nearly had a couple early looks from runs behind the defense. But in the third minute, Ibeagha made a nice recovery and in the 20th minute Fernandez's first touch was a bit too strong on a ball over the top from Blanco.

Dairon Asprilla dribbled into the box in the sixth minute, and his shot from near the goal line hit goalkeeper Brad Stuver and bounced off the post.

Zarek Valentin and Claude Dielna made timely plays to deny dangerous crosses. Larrys Mabiala got just enough of a corner kick to keep Valentin Castellanos from scoring in the 42nd minute.

The last five minutes of the half were a yellow card outbreak for Portland. In less than four minutes, Dielna, Marco Farfan, Blanco, Asprilla and Valentin all were shown deserved yellows — and Valentin's unintentional high boot to the head of Ben Sweat was close to red-card worthy.

The match was the start of a busy stretch for the Timbers. At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, they will renew their rivalry with Los Angeles FC, playing a U.S. Open Cup match on the road. They are home at 8 p.m. Saturday against Colorado and have a 7 p.m. Thursday, July 18 match against Orlando City.

With that tight calendar in mind, Savarese made significant lineup changes. Dielna, Farfan, Renzo Zambrano, Andres Flores and Asprilla were in the starting lineup.

Portland was in position for its first MLS win in more than four years without Diego Chara until Chara came on for Zambrano in the 76th minute.


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