Portland Timbers fall at Toronto
Toronto FC used two late goals from world-class Italians to put a stop to the Portland Timbers' 10-match unbeaten run. Goals by Lorenzo Insigne in the 79th minute and Federico Bernardeschi in the 85th lifted Toronto to a 3-1 win Saturday, Aug. 13, at BMO Field.
Josecarlos Van Rankin's first goal for the Timbers tied the score in the 73rd minute and Portland seemed to be the team more likely to take a lead.
But Insigne, who scored 96 goals for Napoli in Italy's top league, volleyed home a chance in the 79th minute. Then Bernardeschi, who starred on the wing for Juventus for the past five years, put the exclamation point on Toronto's third win in a four-match unbeaten tun that has breathed life into a season that was dead before key summer roster additions.
Toronto, 41st minute — Jonathan Osario scored with a one-time finish from seven yards in front of goal after Richie Lareya beat Portland Claudio Bravo on the dribble and cut a pass back where Osario was one of several unmarked Toronto players ready to finish.
Timbers, 73rd minute — Van Rankin's first MLS foal came at the end of a quick up-field play. Yimmi Chara's was sent up the left wing by an Eryk Williamson pass. Chara cut inside and sent a pass that Sebastian Blanco delicately flicked on for Van Rankin alone in the right side of the penalty area and Portland's right back calmly took one touch then passed the ball into the left side letting.
Toronto, 79th minute — Insigne volleyed home a ball that bounced off the back of recovering defender Bill Tuiloma after a nicely-weighted flick pass from Michael Bradley. Insigne eluded Van Rankin in the buildup then continued his run into the box.
Toronto, 85th minute — Bernardeschi scored his third MLS goal moments after Portland goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic made an outstanding save on a point-blank chance from Ayo Akinola that was set up by Insigne.
Big picture: Portland lost for the first time since May 28. Falling on the road to a talented Toronto side fighting to make up ground in the Eastern Conference is hardly cause for alarm. What is unsettling, though, is Portland's inability to create more real scoring chances against a Toronto side that was pushing the attack and leaving spaces to be exploited at the back.
At 7-7-12, the Timbers have fewer matches left than many of the teams they are fighting for playoff position, and having the fewest wins in the Western Conference isn't going to help Portland should tiebreakers come into play.
Takeaways — Portland's outside backs don't have the defending chops to contain world-class attackers one on one. Portland is hardly alone there, but as the skill level and pedigree of attackers around MLS continues to improve, it's a challenge the Timbers don't have an ideal answer for right now. Toronto is getting early payoffs for acquiring two Italian national team standouts in their prime in the summer transfer window. Toronto (8-12-5, 29 points) sits 12th in the Eastern Conference, but four points below the playoff line. Should it qualify, TFC looks like an opponent no one will want to face in the playoffs.
Sure, the Timbers' defending Saturday was far from secure — the nine saves from Aljaz Ivacic, including a couple bordering on spectacular, are evidence of that. But the Timbers might have survived with better quality in the attack. Too many times, a quality buildup fizzled because of miscommunication, a forced pass or a lack of movement off the ball. The absence of Felipe Mora for most of this season should not be forgotten. Whether it was fatigue or just one of those disconnected nights, Jaroslaw Niezgoda was a non-factor in his 64 minutes. He hasn't scored in three games and didn't take a shot on Saturday, and without Mora, Portland lacks another striker to match the quality of most MLS teams and who can give Niezgoda a night off.
Savarese's take: Coach Giovanni Savarese didn't name players, but said that not all of the Timbers worked hard enough in Saturday's match. Given the club's precarious position in the standings, it was clear the coach was not happy with the consistency of effort from his side.
"It wasn't consistent enough for us to be able to get the points that we needed," Savarese said. "When the games are like this, the quality of some of the players — specifically Insigne and Bernardeschi — you can see that they can find moments to penalize you."
Sluggish start — In the first half Toronto outshot Portland 12-1 (6-0 on goal), en route to final numbers of 23-3 (12-2 on goal). The Timbers responded and were the better team for a significant phase of the second half, but 35 to 40 good minutes isn't enough to beat one of the most talent-laden teams in the league.
Next Timbers match — Portland at Sporting Kansas City, 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 21.
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