O'Neill's first half goal holds up, Timbers take over first with 1-0 win

July 9, 2001
at PGE Park, Portland, Oregon

Goals:

21' - Portland: Michael O'Neill (Darren Sawatzky)

Midfielder Michael O'Neill had not scored since the May 23 match vs. El Paso, but he blasted in a 15 yard shot off a Darren Sawatzky pass, and that goal held up as the Portland Timbers held off a late charge by the Milwaukee Rampage, and held on for a 1-0 win that moved the Timbers past the Rampage and into first place. The match was played in front of 5,032 at PGE Park in Portland.

Scott Benedetti holds the ball while Michael O'Neill makes a run behind him

The Rampage had sent several of their key players back to Milwaukee after Sunday's loss in Seattle, and the Timbers faced a team where half of the players were members of the Rampage looking to prove themselves, and the Timbers had trouble keeping up with that intensity all night. In just the 4th minute, it was only three point-blank saves by Timbers goalkeeper Matt Napoleon that kept the Rampage from scoring first, then a trap of a fourth shot by Timbers midfielder Brian Winters, who was in position to finally clear the ball. In the 7th minute, the Timbers had their first chance at goal when a Greg Howes chip was played into the path of Darren Sawatzky, making a diagonal run to the near post, but Sawatzky was unable to get enough of his head onto the ball, and a harmless shot went wide right.

But in the 22nd minute, the Timbers put together a string of passes that resulted in the evening's only goal. A pass deep into the box was controlled by Sawatzky, who passed back out to Michael O'Neill near the top of the box, who hit a hard high shot in stride from 15 yards, that went barely under the crossbar and into the top netting to put the Timbers up 1-0.

Just one minute later, the Rampage nearly tallied with a counterattack goal when Bato Radoncic made a run down the left side, but he only managed a weak shot that Napoleon saved easily. In the next minute, the Rampage were once again threatening when a Dennis Fadeski cross from the left side was headed on goal by Oliver Ellsworth, but the shot was right at Napoleon.

Milwaukee's Craig Charlton with a handful of Brian Winters' jersey while both teams position for a corner kick

The Timbers went on the attack again in the 26th minute when a Sawatzky chip to Mark Baena found the Timbers forward open from 10 yards out, but his shot was saved well by Milwaukee's Dan Popik with a diving save to his left. In the 28th minute, Baena was again in scoring position after a Howes pass into the box had him turning to put the ball on his left foot, but Baena's jersey was grabbed by Rampage defender Scott Dombrowski, and though Baena went down in the box, the referee called play on and the ball was cleared. In the 30th minute, the Timbers were once again knocking on the doorstep when after Brent Sancho worked hard to get a cross in from the left side, Howes ran onto the ball and hit a very hard header from 5 yards out that went just inches high.

The last good chance either team had to score in the first half when Philippe Godoy made a run down the left side, but his shot, though well struck, went right to the Timbers keeper, and the half ended with the home team leading 1-0.

This Darren Sawatzky pass off the endline set up Michael O'Neill's goal

Milwaukee substituted Digital Takawira into the game early in the second half, and the Timbers spent much of the rest of the match trying to keep the former MLS star from scoring. He had his first good chance in the 50th minute when he ran onto a cross from the left side, but his header went about a yard over the bar. The Timbers nearly widened the lead in the 53rd minute when Baena's pass found Sancho only eight yards out, but Sancho turned and shot just wide right. In the 57th minute, a series of good passes had the Rampage pressing deep into the Timbers end, but the last pass put Takawira offside to end the threat.

In the 68th minute, a Milwaukee cross rattled around inside the Timbers box for a few seconds before being cleared from near the post before a Rampage player could get a shot off. The Rampage had many crosses getting into the box by this time of the game, but were having trouble finishing on the numerous opportunities. They were pushing more players forward by this time, and that strategy nearly cost them a goal in the 74th minute when a series of passes from Baena, to Sawatzky, then back to a charging O'Neill, who hit a hard shot from nearly the same distance as his early goal, but the shot rebounded off Milwaukee's Dombrowski and back out to midfield.

Greg Howes avoids the sliding tackle by Brian Doherty

The Timbers were using the Rampage pushing forward to take advantage of second-half substitute Keith Costigan making runs down the left side, which resulted in some good chances for the Timbers to increase the lead. In the 75th minute, a Costigan cross found Howes once again getting a good header on net from 8 yards out, but Popik saved well with a diving save to his left. In the 83rd minute, after a Timbers corner kick, Sawatzky played a pass to Howes, who couldn't turn on the ball but played it back to Sawatzky, whose shot from 10 yards was saved by Popik, who seemed to get sharper as the match went on. But the Timbers' Napoleon was also getting sharper in goal, and in the last few minutes, the Timbers would need it.

In the 84th minute, Takawira made a diagonal run that had him one-on-one with Napoleon, but on an angle to the right. Takawira attempted to shoot back towards the far post, but Napoleon was prepared for the shot, and smothered the ball well. In the 90th minute, after a few more chances by the Rampage had resulted in shots going well high or wide, the 5,000 Timbers fans held their collective breath as Takawira made another diagonal run, this time playing a slow pass across the face of an open net, but Milwaukee's Dombrowski was not quite quick enough to get to the ball, and though his desperately slid to put the ball into a completely open net, he was not quite quick enough to get to the ball, which rolled harmlessly over the endline, as the home crowd let out a collective sigh of relief.

Brent Sancho heads a pass past Milwaukee's Craig Charlton

But the Rampage had not had their best scoring chance of the night. That came about a minute into stoppage time. After a foul was called at about 30 yards out from the Timbers goal, the Timbers had a wall set up near the top of the box, with the wall to the shooter's left, and Napoleon covering the right side of the goal. As he has done so many times, Takawira took the shot, a nearly perfect ball which went over the wall and dipped towards the top left corner of the net, a shot that looked sure to go in from our position behind the far goal. But Napoleon stretched out and made a brilliant leaping save, tapping the ball barely over the net, and for the second time in just a few minutes, had the Rampage grabbing their heads, wondering what they needed to do to put a ball past Napoleon.

The Timbers had a late breakaway that Baena was unable to get past Popik, and O'Neill was unable to put into the net after the save, but the Rampage had no more chances to tie, and the match ended with the Timbers getting a 1-0 win, and vaulting back into first place in the Western Conference.

Darren Sawatzky makes a move down the sideline on Rampage midfielder Philippe Godoy
Stats:
Shots: Timbers 13, Rampage 13
Saves: Timbers 7, Rampage 4
Fouls: Timbers 13, Rampage 14
Offsides: Timbers 2, Rampage 3
Corners: Timbers 3, Rampage 8

Cautions:
Timbers 1 (Costigan 51' (yellow, hard tackle))
Rampage 3 (Charlton 15' (yellow, tackle from behind), Hayes 84' (yellow, late tackle), Godoy 88' (yellow, tackle from behind))

Starters:
Portland: Matt Napoleon, Gavin Wilkinson (Keith Costigan 46'), Brent Sancho, Matt Chulis, Jeff Clarke, Brian Winters, Michael O'Neill, Scott Benedetti, Darren Sawatzky, Mark Baena, Greg Howes
Milwaukee: Dan Popik, Dennis Fadeski, Scott Dombrowski (David Hayes 50'), Khary Stockton, Brian Doherty, Bato Radoncic, Craig Charlton, Ramon Alvarado (Digital Takawira 48'), Philippe Godoy, Oliver Ellsworth (Peter Henning 77'), Nebosha Stamenkovic (Jonathan Cantwell 39')
Timber Jim poses with a ballboy after cutting off a piece of the log celebrating the lone Timbers goal

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