On a (surprise, surprise) rainy night in Portland, Minnesota United faced off against the Timbers in that team’s home opener. After five matches on the road and no wins, the Timbers were hungry for a victory and there is no better place in MLS for them to get off the schneid than Providence Park. The Loons conceded two goals early and mounted a spirited comeback before ultimately coming up short 3-2.
“I thought there was something there for us,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “Thought we were far and away the better team in the second half and large portions of the first. Gave two terrible goals away, which we’ve done a couple of times on the road, so we give ourselves a mountain to climb, but we kept going. At the end, I’m disappointed we haven’t took something from it. They had a few chances on the break as you’d expect when we’re piling forward toward the end, but overall, I look at the way we’ve played with the ball, I’ve been pleased with a lot of stuff. But ultimately, we’ve got to score goals and got to concede less.”
The Loons began brightly, with defender Marc Burch sending in an early cross in the hopes of testing goalkeeper Jake Gleeson in the first minute, but Gleeson snapped it up. Moments later, defender Jerome Thiesson picked up a pretty interception as he sneaked through the middle. He lined up a shot, but watched it glance off forward Christian Ramirez and go over the endline.
Those early offensive efforts were matched by solid defending with first Burch and later captain and defender Francisco Calvo breaking up forays into Minnesota’s box by Portland attackers. Although the Timbers piled on the pressure in the final third, it was a back-and-forth match through the first 15 minutes, notable to Minnesota fans chiefly for the lack of touches from midfielder Darwin Quintero, who was tightly marked along with midfielder Ethan Finlay. This left Miguel Ibarra the task of working the ball down the left side along with Burch.
Before Minnesota could find an opening though, Portland struck in the 20th minute. Defender Alvas Powell picked up the ball deep on the right side and then got around Burch before shredding the rest of the Minnesota defense and launching a confident tight-angle shot from the right side that snaked past goalkeeper Matt Lampson to give the Timbers a 1-0 lead.
The Loons barely had time to get their legs back under them before the Timbers would strike again. In the 23rd minute, Powell once again posed a threat down the right side, but this time he fired a cross in that glanced off Burch but found its way to the feet of midfielder Diego Valeri who rounded on it and nestled onto the far post and into the net.
Down 2-0, Minnesota quickly regrouped and rallied, looking briefly like they had cut the deficit in half after a rapid-fire string of passes had the ball going all the way across the pitch from Ibson to Thiesson to Finlay to Quintero back to Thiesson and then to Miguel Ibarra who finished it off into the left side of the net. Moments later, though, the play was called back after it was determined that Ibarra was offside.
The rest of the first half saw chances for both sides, with a dangerous cross from Finlay cleared out by defender Larrys Mabiala, a shot by midfielder Sebastian Blanco that rang off the woodwork above Lampson, and a save by Gleeson that had him laying all the way out to turn aside a shot from Ibarra off a cross from Burch. Headed into the half, it looked like the communication was not quite there for Minnesota with chances in the final third going begging as players misjudged runs or couldn’t quite anticipate each other’s moves.
The start of the second half saw Heath putting in Carter Manley for Burch and shifting Thiesson over to the left side to allow Manley his customary spot on the right. “We thought we needed a little more athleticism in to counter their counterattacking because that’s when they were the most dangerous — when we were attacking,” said Heath. “We just thought Carter’s athleticism would help in that department and I think he did.”
Quintero also looked steadier and more comfortable in the second half. In the 51st minute he put in some pretty work in the box to shake two Portland defenders and send an offering across goal that Ramirez couldn’t quite finish. Two minutes later, he nearly bicycle kicked a high ball in the box into goal, but it went wide right. He finally broke through in the 64th minute, taking a pass from Carter Manley on the right side and sneaking his way toward the endline before snaking a shot past Gleeson to pull the Loons within one at 2-1.
It appeared that the Loons were building momentum, but 10 minutes later, a turnover in the middle of the pitch cleared the way for midfielder Cristhian Paredes to line up a shot that deflected off Fanendo Adi and into the right side of the night as Lampson dove left. Not long after, it looked like Adi would notch the brace but it was the Timbers’ turn to have a goal called back after it was determined Adi had just gotten ahead of the play and offside.
“We knew it was going to be difficult coming in — their home opener after five games on the road — but to give them the start that we did is criminal from our point of view,” said Heath. “The fullback gets it at the halfway line and just runs and smashes it in. That was poor from us. And the second one takes a deflection into Valeri’s path, but I think after that, I was pleased with the way we moved the ball. I thought we looked dangerous going forward. Thought Quintero had a really good opening game, considering he hasn’t played a lot of football for a while. So there was a lot of positives to take from it, but as I’ve just said to the players: If we concede three goals on the road, we ain’t gonna win too many games.”
In the 81st minute, Quintero was the catalyst for an own goal by Portland after his service to forward Abu Danladi — who came on for Ramirez in the 76th minute — ricocheted off defender Bill Poni Tuiloma.
“We said we brought him because he makes things happen in the final third and that’s what he’s done this evening,” said Heath. “Got himself a goal, always looked dangerous when he had the ball. Even the ball for the own goal: it’s right in the right spot, pointing people facing their own goal. So he can be really pleased with his first night’s work for us. He’ll get better when we get to work with him more and he gets a better understanding with the people around him.”
Despite a wild finish that saw players going down on both sides and chances going both ways, the 3-2 score held in the end. Although the result was a disappointment, it was a tantalizing glimpse into what a player as dangerous as Quintero can do, and it’s hard not to be encouraged by what he will be able to bring with more time on the pitch and with his teammates. Also encouraging was his reaction to his first goal: “When you score and the team doesn’t win, it doesn’t mean much.”
Minnesota United’s next match is on Sunday, April 22 when they visit the Sounders in Seattle. That match kicks off at 3:00 p.m. CT with pre-match coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN and MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Matt Lampson; D Jerome Thiesson, Michael Boxall, Francisco Calvo, Marc Burch (Carter Manley 46’); M Ibson, Rasmus Schuller, Ethan Finlay, Miguel Ibarra (Sam Nicholson 85’), Darwin Quintero; F Christian Ramirez (Abu Danladi 76’)
MIN Unused Subs: GK Bobby Shuttleworth; D Brent Kallman; M Collin Martin; F Mason Toye
Portland Timbers Starting XI: GK Jake Gleeson; D Alvas Powell, Larrys Mabiala, Bill Poni Tuilome, Zarek Valentin; M Cristhian Paredes, Diego Chara, Andy Polo (Andres Flores 75’), Diego Valeri (Samuel Armenteros 90+‘), Sebastian Blanco (Marco Farfan 90’); F Fanendo Adi
POR Unused Subs: GK Jeff Attinella; D Julio Cascante; M Jack Barmby, Lawrence Olum
20’ – Powell (Mabiala) – POR
23’ – Valeri (Powell, Paredes) – POR
64’ – Quintero (Manley) – MIN
74’ – Adi (Paredes, Valeri) – POR
81’ – Tuiloma (Own Goal) – MIN
34’ – Schuller (YC) – MIN
39’ – Burch (YC) – MIN
86’ – Ibson (YC) – MIN
90+’ – Boxall (YC) – MIN
90+’ – Chara (YC) – POR