Timbers steal some Thunder from Minnesota
August 25, 2002 at National Sports Center grass bowl, Blaine, Minnesota
(Click on any match photo for a larger (up to 300K) version of each pic)

Bryn Ritchie battles Johnny Torres for control
68' - Minnesota: Johnny Menyongar (Johnny Torres)
87' - Portland: Scott Benedetti (McKinley Tennyson)
97' - Portland: McKinley Tennyson

Two of the hottest teams in the league met on Sunday afternoon when the Timbers traveled to Blaine, Minnesota to take on the Thunder, and McKinley Tennyson's 18 yard blast in the 97th minute completed a remarkable comeback as the Timbers completed their two-game road sweep with a 2-1 win over the Thunder in front of a crowd of 2,812. Johnny Menyongar had the lone Thunder goal while Scott Benedetti had the critical late goal for the Timbers that evened the match, which was played at the grass bowl adjacent to the National Sports Center main stadium.

In a match that would be all about momentum, it was the Thunder who had the momentum early, and would control most of the first half. After each team cleared a few dangerous balls from their boxes in the first few minutes, Johnny Menyongar had a breakaway for the Thunder in the 9th minute, but he was unable to keep the ball on his feet and Matt Napoleon smothered the ball just as Menyongar finally caught up to it again. Six minutes later, the Thunder had a few chances from near the top of the box that were blocked by Timbers midfielder Jesus Ochoa, who always seemed to be in the right position as he blocked at least three blasts in the first half alone.

In the 23rd minute, Thunder defender Steve Shak got his head on a corner kick but headed it just wide left. Two minutes later Amos Magee had a good chance for the Thunder, but hit his low shot from 20 yards wide left as well. Another two minutes after that, Menyongar was again pushing the ball into the Timbers box, but once again Napoleon was up to the task, and was able to smother the shot. In the 38th minute the Thunder had one last good chance when they had a free kick from just outside the Timbers box, but the shot was into the wall and was cleared easily.

McKinley Tennyson rocketed this shot in for the game-winnter

The Timbers finally showed a little offense late in the half when McKinley Tennyson hit a hard shot from 15 yards directly at Thunder goalkeeper Joe Warren, and then defender Bryn Ritchie had a golden opportunity on a header with a mostly open net, but the header was just over the net, and the half ended with the teams scoreless.

In the second half, it was the Timbers that were on the attack, and the momentum was clearly swinging to the visiting side. In the 48th minute, Portland's Chugger Adair hit a header towards net from 10 yards out but it was right at the Minnesota keeper. Three minutes later, Tennyson got loose behind the Thunder defense, but was caught by the defense near the top of the box, and his shot from 18 yards out was smothered by Warren. In the 57th minute, a loose ball in the Thunder box gave the Timbers several chances to get a shot on goal, but none of the shots went on net, and the ball was eventually cleared.

Minnesota finally had their first good chance in the second half in the 60th minute when Magee had a good look from 18 yards out, but his attempt to go for the upper right corner went a yard high and wide right. In the 67th minute, the Thunder very nearly took the lead when after a corner kick was punched out of the box by Napoleon, Thunder forward Johnny Torres hit a shot from 25 yards out that seemed destined for the top right corner, but the shot hit off the crossbar and was cleared by the Timbers defense.

Brent Sancho closely marked by Don Gramenz

But two minutes later, the Thunder finally broke through when after Napoleon saved two point-blank shots from Torres and Magee, but Torres managed to chip the rebound across the 6 yard box to a wide-open Menyongar, who crouched down to head the low cross, but made no mistake as he put the header into the open net, and the Thunder had a 1-0 lead.

In the 72nd minute, Shak received a red card for a cleats-up tackle, and the Thunder were forced to protect their slim lead while shorthanded.

After Napoleon had barely tipped a Menyongar shot wide right in the 74th minute, the visitors began to push forward more players in an attempt to even the match, and often were leaving only defenders Gavin Wilkinson and Ritchie on the backline as Brent Sancho and Keith Costigan pushed forward to join the attack. In the 76th minute, Adair played a nice through ball to second-half Portland substitute Greg Howes, but the ball came off Howes' foot just enough for Warren to smother the loose ball just as Howes reached it.

The Thunder were dropping more players back in attempt to hold the lead, and it appeared it was going to work until the final few minutes when an unlikely hero arrived for the Timbers. Scott Benedetti had come on in the 82nd minute as a substitute for Vadim Tolstolutsky and had been patrolling the left side of the pitch, pushing more forward than he normally does.

The Minnesota fans gather at the grass bowl to watch the match

The strategy would pay off in the 87th minute when in a near-replay of the Torres miss earlier, the Thunder goalkeeper punched a dangerous cross out of the box to Benedetti, who was parked at least 5 yards outside the box at a 45 degree angle to goal. With the net only guarded by a lone Thunder defender, Benedetti hit a perfect curling strike that went perfectly into the upper right corner of the net, just above the Thunder defender's attempt to stop it with his head, and the Thunder crowd had been shocked into silence as the visitors had leveled the score at 1-1.

Each team had chances to put loose balls on net in the last few minutes of regulation, but neither team was able to put a shot on goal, and the match would head to overtime.

As in the match the previous week between these two teams that had also gone to overtime, it was the Timbers that had the momentum as the extra period began, and in the 92nd minute, Tennyson made a diagonal run into the box from the right side, and his low shot eluded Warren, but rang off the left post and back out and was cleared by the Thunder defense. In the 93rd minute, Ben Somoza eluded several Thunder defenders as he made a run to the top of the box, but his shot was just wide right.

But in the 97th minute, Tennyson, who entered the match as the league's leading scorer, was once again behind the Thunder defense as he made a run down the right side to the top of the box, and this time he blasted a high shot to Warren's short side into the upper right corner, and just like that, the Timbers had completed their improbable sweep through the Midwest, a win that puts the Timbers over the .500 mark for the first time this season.

Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar barely keeps the ball inbounds
Time: Friday, August 25, 2002. 3:00 pm PDT
Venue: National Sports Center grass bowl, Blaine, Minnesota
Weather: 85 degrees, clear, warm
Attendance: 2,812


Sancho (53')
Hard tackle
Torres (8')
Tackle from behind
Ritchie (95')
Hard tackle
Shak (72')
Cleats-up tackle
Gentile (76')

Chugger Adair attempts to chip back over his head
Portland (4-4-2)
(Green and white stiped jersey, White shorts, White socks)
McKinley TennysonChugger Adair
Jake Sagare
(Greg Howes 70')
Vadim Tolstolutsky
(Scott Benedetti 82')
Jesus Ochoa
(Ben Somoza 87')
Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar
Keith CostiganGavin Wilkinson
(Bryn Ritchie 72')
Bryn RitchieBrent Sancho
Matt Napoleon
Chris Smith, Erik Ozimek, Fadi Afash
Minnesota (4-4-2)
(Blue jersey with white and black trim, blue shorts, blue socks)
Johnny Torres
(Jakob Fenger 72')
Johnny Menyongar
(Orrett Prendergast 89')
Mike GentileMatt SchmidtHugo LlamaAmos Magee
(Adam Eyre 72')
Chris GoresSteve ShakDon GramenzMark Schulte
Joe Warren
Marshall Morehead, Zaf Kilickan, Eric Otto, Aaron Biddle, Chris Scanlon, Jeremiah Bass, Donny Mark, Jon Lowery
Tennyson and Steve Shak battle for the header
The Timbers celebrate Benedetti's tying goal
Johnny Menyongar cuts back against Gavin Wilkinson
Greg Howes shields the ball from Mark Schulte
This punch-out from Matt Napoleon was then knocked off the crossbar by Johnny Torres
Mark Schulte
Jesus Ochoa marking Amos Magee
McKinley Tennyson celebrates the game-winning goal
Adair and Gramenz go for the header
Vadim Tolstolutsky guarded by Matt Schmidt
Match report and all photos by Allison Andrews

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