Saturday, June 19: Timbers 2, Sporting Kansas City 1
The goals: Jaylin Lindsey scored, running onto a ball driven through the box by Alan Pulido (1-0 Sporting KC, 28th minute).
Dairon Asprilla had his first shot blocked after it found him on the end of a free kick but he drove the second try along the turf and inside the left post (1-1, 36th minute).
Marvin Loria was quick to the ball when Sporting misplayed a Diego Valeri ball and Loria eventually walked the ball into the goal (2-1 Timbers, 45+1).
What it means: Portland improved to 4-4-0 for 12 points and sits sixth in the Western Conference (1.5 points per game. Sporting Kansas City is 5-3-2 for 17 points.
The skinny: The visitors dominated possession (65%), shots (18-7) and corner kicks (10-2), but struggled to find quality scoring chances (three shots on goal) and fluffed a couple of the better chances (though Steve Clark had to be at full stretch to make a save just after halftime).
This felt like a night of destiny for Portland, given that Providence Park felt and sounded like itself for the first time since March of 2020. It was a night of happy returns as the park was at 80% of capacity and Sebastian Blanco saw the field as a late substitute for the first time since last September.
The Timbers' goals were timely and a result of sticking with it, as Asprilla scored on his second whack at the ball and Loria finished an opportunity off of a couple of unlikely bounces.
Ultimately, the Timbers stayed focused on being tactically sound and committed to defending and didn't get caught up in the urge to force the attack in front of the home crowd.
Moment of the match: When Blanco entered in the 80th minute, it was the loudest roar of the evening as he hugged Diego Valeri and ran onto the field. After nine months out, Blanco called it a moment he will always remember.
Lineup notes: Diego Chara (who made a strong tackle in the first 30 seconds, a sure sign of normalcy returning) and goalkeeper Steve Clark returned to the starting lineup from the injured list.
Sebastian Blanco and defender Larrys Mabiala both came on in the second half, the first action for Blanco since his ACL tear last September. Renzo Zambrano was a key presence in front of the backline after entering for a hobbled Asprilla in the second half.
Blanco on the fans' welcoming him back: "I can't explain it. I'm still thinking about that moment. I saw some videos on my phone. I don't have words
for the people. I'm thankful. So much love and support. To come back, be back on the field in our home, with our people, with 80% capacity and winning the game. It's too much after nine months."
Coach Giovanni Savarese: "We had to be very sound
tactically to make sure that we covered the right spaces and I thought we did a very good job to handle what Sporting brought to us … We put up a good fight. We defended well and I think we deserve these three points for the sacrifice the group put in on a wonderful night in which we had our fans back. What a difference. Incredible. This place was electric. It was energetic and the passion of the fans was transmitted to the players. A wonderful night."
Next match: Portland at Houston, 5:30 p.m. Wednesday (ROOT Sports TV).
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