Timbers respond, topple San Jose 2-0 for critical win
Scoring: Diego Chara scored from in close, getting a low cross into the 6-yard box delivered by Felipe Mora. The play started with defender Bill Tuiloma sending a ball forward to Yimmi Chara, starting a sequence of six quick passes that led to the goal (1-0 Timbers, 34th minute).
Dairon Asprilla's 10th goal of the season might be the goal of the season. Asprilla pounced on a loose ball mishandled by San Jose goalkeeper James Marcinkowski, juggled the ball away from goal and lofted a bicycle kick into the unmanned net (2-0 Timbers, minute).
What it means: Portland 15-13-4 (49 points) remains in fourth place in the Western Conference, two points up on fifth-place Vancouver and four points above the playoff line with two matches remaining. San Jose 9-13-10 (37 points) was eliminated from playoff contention with the loss. San Jose can help Portland if it wins on Saturday at Real Salt Lake. If Salt Lake wins, it will move within one point of Portland for fourth place, with the Timbers visiting Utah next Wednesday for one of the key remaining matches on the MLS slate. Portland will clinch a playoff sport with one more win, but might need to beat both RSL and Austin (Nov. 7) to stay in fourth place and get one home playoff match.
Storylines: In a critical win, Portland was assertive and especially effective playing quickly through the lines of San Jose's man-marking set-up. By ending a three-game losing streak, the Timbers looked confident again. In the shutout, Bill Tuiloma and Dario Zuparic did a nice job, for the most part, limiting the influence of former teammate Jeremy Ebobisse. And outside backs Josecarlos Van Rankin and Pablo Bonilla had a more solid performance than in recent matches.
Diego Chara scored his second goal of the season, taking space in front of goal after Mora moved into space on the right side of the penalty area and appeared to fake a shot before clipping a pass back to the top of the 6-yard box.
Portland's Sebastian Blanco did not start for his second consecutive match with a thigh injury, but came off the bench and nearly scored a spectacular goal, dribbling around several defenders in the penalty area only to see his shot cleared off the line.
With Blanco starting on the bench, Yimmi Chara was in the midfield playmaker role and worked some nice combinations with Felipe Mora, including the quick exchange between the two as part of the buildup to the first goal. Mora, who was effective spinning away from markers, was credited with five chances created, Yimmi Chara with four.
Starting instead of Blanco for the second match in a row, Santiago Moreno registered his third assist in another promising performance. Coach Giovanni Savarese said there was a lot to like about Moreno's performance and pointed to his confidence with the ball at his feet as a key.
"He got us away in some pressure moments from San Jose by dribbling, by going through the lines. That shows a player that has a lot of confidence and he's still young," Savarese said.
After struggling for about 20 minutes to adjust to the physical approach — and to San Jose's unique man-marking system — the Timbers played with the kind of energy and bounce that was lacking in their three-match string of losses.
Said Asprilla (translated): "It's always a hard match against (the Earthquakes). There was a lot of friction with them tonight and also with the referee. But at the end of the day, that gives me and the team motivation to get the results against them."
Portland took 23 shots and San Jose 17, with 12 of the Timbers efforts being on target. It was another match where a third, fourth, or fifth goal seemed there for Portland, but the two high-quality goals were enough.
Asprilla is having himself a season and his 10th goal is one of the best Providence Park has seen. He again said that his inspiration is his deceased father — he wore a short with his father's photo to the post-match press conference.
"I thought a lot about my dad when I scored that goal," he said through a translator. "I remember I had a similar goal with T2. And just with all the adversity and how hard last year, 2020, was, I think that gave me strength to score a goal like that. And yeah, I just thought a lot about my dad when I scored it."
Asprilla has appeared in all 32 MLS matches this season, the only Timbers player to do so. Savarese pointed to Asprilla's work ethic and maturity as keys to his successful season. One example of that is the amount of energy he expends recovering for defensive responsibilities on the wing.
"He has matured. He's given us what we need. And he's been very constant not only in the work that he has put in, in being important as a player to give us so many different things, but especially Dairon's been prolific in scoring goals. And the goal today, I mean, that could be a goal of the year. This he's tried a few times in practice and finally he pulled it off in in this game."
Former Timbers forward Ebobisse had several chances to score in his return to Providence Park. An early close-range volley attempt went wide and he had two shots saved by Steve Clark, including a well-struck effort from outside the penalty area in the second half that forced Clark to dive to save. … Clark made five saves, Marcinkowski 10 saves. … A frustrated Savarese was shown his third yellow card of the season midway through the first half. … Attendance was announced as 16,086.
Up next: Portland at Real Salt Lake, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 3 (ESPN2).
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.