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Paul Danzer On Soccer: Season opener not what Portland wanted in Sunday's 3-1 loss at Providence Park

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Sebastian Blanco of the Timbers has a word with a linesman.It was a wonderful way to start a season for the Portland Timbers.

Until it wasn't.

Minnesota United spoiled opening day 2020 for the Timbers, scoring goals two minutes apart in the second half Sunday and winning 3-1 in front of an announced sellout crowd of 25,218 at Providence Park.

Diego Valeri converted a penalty kick for the Portland goal. Kevin Molino scored twice for Minnesota and new striker Luis Amarilla scored the game-winner.

The Timbers were dominant for the first half-hour of the match and might have had multiple goals with a little better fortune and better quality in the 18-yard box.

Portland had three chances in the first five minutes, the best of them for Cristhian Paredes at the near post in the fourth minute. A minute later Portland had a shout for a penalty kick as Minnesota goalkeeper Tyler Miller appeared to make contact with Timbers forward Felipe Mora. Referee Ismail Elfath did not call a foul and after video review, play continued.

In the 16th minute, Mora had a shot from outside the box curl just wide. In the 22nd minute, Sebastian Blanco scuffed a good look well wide from 17 yards.

Minnesota's best first-half chance came from a 33rd-minute corner kick that found striker Luis Amarilla open at the far post but his reaction try went well high.

In the second half, Ethan Finlay found joy on the counter attack to set up all three Minnesota goals. The speedy winger took advantage of Portland pushing too far up the field on the first two plays, making quality deliveries that led to goals. On the third one, the Loons simply won control of a punt from goalkeeper Miller, Finlay drew two defenders and (with perhaps a bit of good fortune) chipped the ball to Molino who was wide open eight yards from goal.

Takeaways: Minnesota is a good team. But this was an ugly result for the Timbers because it mirrored so many of the problems that surfaced at home last season: the inability to unlock an organized opponent and poor decisions by defenders up field gifting scoring opportunities. … The stats credit Portland with creating 10 chances, Minnesota seven. But, with the exception of the opening 22 minutes and the stoppage-time goal from Filipe Mora that was ruled offside, the Loons' chances were much higher-quality than the Timbers' chances. And, despite Portland having 58% possession, Minnesota earned seven corner kicks to Portland's two. … Steve Clark deserves better. Though the Timbers keeper probably wants the go-ahead goal back, it was a close-range chance headed down well by an unmarked Amarilla. Clark made a remarkable diving stop to deny Robin Lod's 8-yard shot with the score still 1-1. On the first Minnesota goal, Clark made a strong aggressive play to initially break up the chance, but got an unlucky bounce and no defensive support. ... Diego Chara, the only player left from Portland's first MLS team in 2011, became only the third player in MLS history to reach 80 yellow cards in a career.

Coach Giovanni Savarese said: "Created many chances. Had opportunities and it's all on us. I think we gave the game away. Credit to (Minnesota) because they worked more than we did in the second half. They found the reward that they wanted and that they worked for in the second half.

"Again, we cannot be this team of two halves. We need to make sure that we are a little more consistent. The first half is the team we need to be but it needs to be complete in the match."

Next match: Home vs. Nashville SC, 4 p.m. March 8 (ESPN).


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