May 11 vs. Seattle Sounders at PGE Park


Goals:
Portland - Mark Baena 25' (Darren Sawatzky)
Portland - Brent Sancho 38' (Darren Sawatzky)

Forward Mark Baena and defender Brent Sancho provided all of the scoring the Timbers would need, both scoring in the first half off assists by Darren Sawatzky, as the Portland Timbers shut out the Seattle Sounders 2-0 on opening night at PGE Park before an enthusiastic crowd of 12,295

Vadim Tolstolutsky challenges Seattle's Viet Nguyen

It was clearly a memorable night for the players and fans at PGE Park as the Timbers played their first game in Portland since the WSL's Timbers in 1990, and 19 years after the NASL Timbers last took the pitch in Portland. The pre-game festivities included Timber Jim riding in on a Harley Davidson before taking his chain saw to a log in front of the crowd. Nine members of the NASL Timbers were also introduced, as well as those who have brought the new Timbers back to Portland.

When the game opened, both teams spent the first 20 minutes or so feeling each other out, and adjusting to the NexTurf surface, which neither team had played a match on. But both teams settled in before long and play opened up. The Timbers were pushing forward more in early play than Seattle, but the Sounders had the first serious goalscoring threat in the 19th minute when Jason Farrel's shot from 15 yards out, at an extreme angle to the left of Portland keeper Matt Napoleon, dipped and hit the crossbar, but there were no Sounders there to put the ball in and it was cleared by the Timbers defense.

Brent Sancho's header went just wide right

The Timbers continued to press forward with Mark Baena and Darren Sawatzky pressing deep into the attack, and had a few good chances off corner kicks and free kicks from within 30 yards, but Seattle goalkeeper Preston Burpo was up to the task as the match remained scoreless.

All of that changed in the 25th minute on a play that started from about 30 yards out. Baena played a short pass to Sawatzky, who turned quickly and played a short angle lob ahead and to his left into where Baena had begun a run. Baena appeared a step or two offside when the ball was played, but the referee's assistant's flag stayed down, and Baena outran the Sounders defense down the left side, pulling Burpo from his goal, then calmly pushing the ball past him off his left foot once he had the angle, and putting the Timbers up 1-0.

The gameplay opened up even more after the Timbers had put a goal on the board, and the Sounders were able to push further forward as they found playing the ball to the wing having greater success than trying to move the ball to the middle, where the Timbers defense had effectively shut down the Sounders attack early on.

Seattle's Matt Smith and Portland's Matt Chulis challenge for the header

But after the Sounders may have begun to feel the momentum swinging their way, the Timbers made the best of a great corner kick. Sawatzky played a corner kick from the keeper's right which dipped and curved perfectly to the far post about five yards out, where defender Brent Sancho lept perfectly into the path of the ball, and headed the ball down hard past the Seattle keeper, and the ball bounced up into the top right corner of the goal to put the Timbers up 2-0.

Each team had two more good chances to score on headers before the end of the half, but none of the shots were hard enough to beat either keeper, and the half ended 2-0 in favor of the home side.

In the second half, the Timbers fell into a more defensive posture, content with their 2-0 lead. The wings were no longer pushing as far forward, and for much of the second half, Baena and Sawatzky were the only players not staying back in defense. The Sounders began getting more chances, but were finding the going tough in the final third.

Scott Benedetti preparing to cross

Sawatzky nearly found the net again in the 70th minute when a perfect cross from Scott Benedetti found him at the far post, but his first header was saved well by Burpo, and his attempted follow up was deflected away by a Sounders defender.

The Sounders were successfully pushing the ball into the corners as the Timbers packed their defense inside, but Napoleon snatched any cross out of the air that was within his reach, and the Timbers defense closely marked the Sounders attackers. But in the 81st minute, a strike from the Sounders found iron for the second time that night when defender Kieran Barton struck a hard low shot from about 25 yards out that somehow went untouched through the packed defense, but the ball struck the right pole solidly, rebounded across the goal mouth behind Napoleon, but no Sounders were there to finish and the ball was cleared by the Timbers defense. Barton's frustration reflected how the entire evening went for the Sounders, as he flailed in frustration at the air afterwards.

Matt Napoleon snatches the ball from the air

Seattle forward Craig Tomlinson and Portland defender Jesus Ochoa collided hard just inside the Portland box late in the first half, with the players hitting each other's heads while both were going for a header, and Tomlinson was taken from the stadium in an ambulance once the match had completed.

In the 87th minute, Seattle forward Rees Bettinger pinched in well from the right corner, and his cross found Jason Farrel on a run from the left side, but Napoleon saved the first shot, and though it appeared Farrel had an open net for a brief moment, he was not able to control the ball well enough to make a solid strike, and his follow up trickled just wide left. By this time the game had become very physical, with the teams exchanging words on the field, with play being stopped several times.

In the end, the two first half goals had provided the margin the Timbers needed, and solid defensive play kept Seattle from getting too many good chances, and Napoleon kept his sheet clean to give the Timbers a 2-0 win in their first home match of the season.

Mark Baena being marked by Seattle's Kieran Barton


Shots on goal: Timbers 12, Sounders 8
Saves: Timbers 5, Sounders 4
Corner Kicks: Timbers 10, Sounders 8
Fouls: Timbers 15, Sounders 24
Offsides: Timbers 2, Sounders 4
Cautions: Timbers 1 ( Winters 38' (yellow, hard tackle)), Sounders 3 ( Jenkins 25' (yellow, dissent), Nguyen 43' (yellow, hard tackle), Farnsworth 90' (yellow, hard tackle))

Mark Baena and Darren Sawatzky (7) start the give-and-go that led to the first goal before a crowd of over 12,000

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