In one of the wilder, entertaining matches of the season, the Portland Timbers and Minnesota United battled to a 4-4 draw on Saturday.
It started with a Portland goal 13 seconds from the kickoff. Minnesota United led 3-1 at halftime. The Timbers led 4-3 20 minutes into the second half. And Saturday's match at Saint Paul, Minnesota finished 4-4.
The draw extends Portland's unbeaten string to eight games (four wins, four draws) and, given the warm afternoon and the way the match unfolded, is a solid point in the standings.
Timbers, first minute — Sebastian Blanco scored 13 seconds in at the end of a six-pass sequence. It is the fastest goal in MLS this season and the fourth quickest in league history.
13 SECONDS!— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 30, 2022
Sebastian Blanco scores the fastest goal of the season so far. pic.twitter.com/Oo4sivunce
Minnesota, ninth minute — From a well-executed corner, Fanco Fragapane scores from a back-post tap-in after a flick header across the goalmouth from Luis Amarilla created a golden chance.
Minnesota, 21st minute — Bongokuhle Hlongwane puts home a rebound at the end of a transition chance after a clever touch by Fragapane bounces off the post.
Minnesota, 41st minute — In another transition moment, Amarilla gets free up the left side, turns an isolated Dario Zuparic and curls the ball inside the right post.
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Timbers, 50th minute — Blanco scores from 16 yards out, placing a one-time shot inside the right post after Santiago Moreno controlled a switching ball from Yimmi Chara and touched a pass to Blanco.
Timbers, 53rd minute — Jaroslaw Niezgoda scores from a free kick with a backward flick header. Claudio Bravo delivered the curling free kick to the center of the penalty area.
Timbers, 65th minute — Ruled an own goal, and preventing Blanco from recording the first MLS hat trick in Timbers history. Blanco's shot from the right side of the penalty area deflected off the foot of defender Kamar Lawrence.
Minnesota, 69th minute — Amarilla ties it with a near-post header in a transition moment.
Big picture — The point is a good one against a Minnesota team that had won five in a six-match unbeaten run entering Saturday. It inches the Timbers (7-6-10, 31 points) into seventh place in the Western Conference, though the teams on their heels (Seattle and the Galaxy) have played fewer games.
However, as Blanco said after the game, the team was frustrated to give up the second-half lead so quickly after the three-goal outburst put Portland ahead.
Saturday's match was the first of three over eight days against teams ahead of Portland in the Western Conference playoff chase. The Timbers have important home matches Wednesday against Nashville and next Saturday against FC Dallas, and will not have suspended Diego Chara or Dairon Asprilla for Wednesday's match.
Hat-trick watch — For a second, it appeared Blanco became the first Timbers player to score three goals in a MLS match, but his go-ahead goal in the 65th minute was ruled an open-goal for deflecting in off of a Minnesota defender.
Quick strike — Thirteen seconds after the opening kickoff, Portland had the lead through a delicate Blanco finish at the end of a nifty seven-pass sequence. A combination of one-touch exchanges featuring Yimmi Chara, Blanco, Jaro Niezgoda and Santiago Moreno set up Blanco's chance. It is the quickest goal to start a match in Timbers history and the fourth fastest in MLS history.
Transition trouble — Perhaps all of the space available to attack sucked the Timbers into bad defensive shapes because Minnesota was able to capitalize in. transition on three of its four goals.
"I thought the first half when we lost the ball, they found (Argentine midfielder Emanuel Reynoso) in good areas and we cannot allow Reynoso to be able to get on the ball with that space because he can create good opportunities in transition," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said.
Standouts — In addition to Blanco, Moreno played a strong match as he continues to grow into a consistent part of the Portland attack.
Another Timbers U22 Initiative player, midfielder David Ayala, made only his fourth MLS start and played the full match for only the second time. He was solid alongside Diego Chara, whose presence was as usual a strong one for Portland. The play of Moreno and Ayala is a good sign for both short and long term. And, given the struggles at outside back, Portland will hope from similar development from recently acquired Juan Mosquera.
Fullback struggles —Left back Claudio Bravo delivered a nice free kick on Niezgoda's goal, but struggled to read the game in transition. He certainly wasn't the only Timbers player caught out of position when the Loons capitalized on counters, but he was slow to react a couple of times and nearly helped Minnesota to another goal by keeping the attacker onside.
Timbers next match — Nashville at Portland, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3 (FOX 12 Plus)
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