Sunday, Oct. 3: Timbers 1, Inter Miami 0
Scoring: Jaroslaw Niezgoda scored his first goal of the season, a header from a Sebastian Blanco corner kick (1-0 Timbers, 83rd minute).
What it means: With their seventh win in eight games (7-0-1), the Portland Timbers improved to 14-10-4 (46 points) and strengthened their place among the top four teams in the MLS Western Conference. Portland is nine points above eighth-place Vancouver, the top seven teams make the playoffs. The team is also seven clear of fifth place, the top four teams get a home playoff match. Pending a later Sunday match between Colorado and Seattle, the Timbers were two points behind the third-place Rapids and five back of the second-place Sounders. … Miami lost its fourth game in a row and sits 11th in the Eastern Conference at 9-13-5 (32 points).
Key moments: Portland gained control of the match in the second half. They couldn't find the goal until Niezgoda, 44 seconds after entering as a substitute, headed to score in his second goal of the season. Blanco, after leaving the previous match with a knock to his left knee came on in the 67th minute and helped Portland play on the front foot for much of the remaining time. … Niezgoda, like Blanco returning from an ACL injury suffered in 2020, has scored nine MLS goals in two season, — on just 11 shots. … In the 86th minute, it looked like Miami's Julian Carranza had tied it with a header but was called for shoving Timbers defender Dario Zuparic to the ground. Miami had a couple more opportunities to equalize, the best was an open shot for defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez that went wide in the 98th minute. … Steve Clark was credited with five saves in the shutout.
Coach Giovanni Savarese: "So very proud of this group. They continue to show that whoever we put on the field gives what we need at all times."
Savarese speaks on substitutes combining for the goal: "You know what happens? The substitutions become the right ones when the guys that come in do their job and they're able to execute what they're supposed to. Niezgoda coming in, with his first touch being able to score, of course I look good. In reality, the players are ready to play. So, whoever we would have put in, I believe they would have got the job done. This is, I think, an important part of this team right now. Everyone wants to play, but everyone wants to help each other to achieve what we are looking for."
Steve Clark on the significance of the win: "It's super important. And we want to keep the momentum going that we have. This win was about points, but I think of it as keeping the momentum that we're playing with. We're looking up the table now, instead of looking down. I think that's a big step for us going into the last six games."
Clark on managing the one-week break: "It's about rest, guys getting in the gym and strengthening their bodies. Then, the week after, it's back to focusing on soccer. It's time for us to rest our minds more than anything, as well, because there's three games in a week the first week back."
Up next: The Timbers are idle this week. Portland at LA Galaxy, 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 16.
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