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Match Recap & Highlights: Austin FC - 1, Portland Timbers - 2
Portland weathers the storm, breaks out, then holds on for a massive three points in Texas.
The Portland Timbers tallied their second road win of the season by defeating Austin FC in Texas by a margin of 2-1. Felipe Mora and Evander scored on either side of halftime, and the Timbers held on to secure a colossal three points and lift themselves above the playoff line for the time being.
Interim Timbers head coach Miles Joseph made his boldest call with his starting XI since he took over the team last month, rolling out an aggressive lineup. With Diego Chara unavailable due to an appendectomy procedure, Joseph opted for a 4-3-3 look with Cristhian Paredes acting as a single-pivot holding midfielder and Santiago Moreno and Evander playing more advanced roles.
Despite their attack-minded setup, the Timbers could barely get a foot on the ball in the opening stages. Austin forced a save and had a goal chalked off due to an offside call all within the opening minute, and if not for a superb reaction save from David Bingham the Timbers would have found themselves trailing inside of ten minutes.
Most of the first half was a rough affair for the Timbers, as the midfield failed to maintain any kind of ball retention and the attack lost all of the cohesion it seemed to have found last week. Diego Chara’s absence was conspicuous, as Portland’s defensive setup also looked disjointed.
But that all started to change at around the half-hour mark. Portland started to find more room on the break and get their attackers into more space.
It all paid off in the 39th minute, when the Timbers flipped the script and struck first. Dairon Asprilla exhibited some excellent hold-up play in winning a bouncing ball and muscling off his defender, and then drove to the byline and cut the ball back into the box. Austin got to it first, but flubbed their clearance right to the feet of Felipe Mora who reacted quick and slotted it home past Stuver to make it 1-0 to the good guys.
Portland came out determined and on the front foot at the start of the second half. While they only generated a single shot in the first ten minutes of the second frame, it was a positive sign for the Timbers to come out and attempt to play aggressive soccer rather than contract into a compact shell to defend their lead.
That aggressive approach broke through in the 65th minute, when Evander doubled Portland’s lead. Portland worked the ball around nicely to Yimmi Chara, who chipped cross towards the far post for Mora, who chest-passed it right to Evander on the doorstep. The Brazilian smashed it home, and all of a sudden the Timbers had a 2-0 lead in Texas.
Just minutes after Santiago Moreno had a chance to make that lead 3-0, Austin bit back via their talisman Sebastian Driussi. The Argentine streaked past the whole of the Timbers midfield to latch onto a ball over the top, and while Bingham saved the initial shot, Driussi immediately collected his own rebound and fired home to halve Portland’s lead and make it 2-1.
After scoring, Austin started to turn the screw and put the pressure on the Timbers defense. Franck Boli, who had been introduced for Mora, had a golden chance to secure Portland’s advantage, but missed his shot. Instead, Portland had to endure wave after wave of attacking threats from the hosts.
But endure the waves they did, and Portland locked it down through seven minutes of stoppage time to secure the three points, in just their second road win of the season.
The win means that Portland will end the weekend above the playoff line. Teams around them have games in hand, but after tallying their third win in their last five games the Timbers look like a team that finally has belief.
1’ David Bingham was called into action in literally the opening seconds as he parried away a volley from Sebastian Driussi.
1’ Barely forty seconds later Austin had the ball in the net via Emiliano Rigoni — but it was negated by the offside flag going up.
9’ Gyasi Zardes put a header ringing off the woodwork, heaping more pressure on the Timbers goal.
9’ BIG SAVE BINGHAM. The Timbers goalkeeper made a stellar reaction save to tip over a point-blank header
24’ Zardes, jostling with Zac McGraw, poked a shot just wide of the Timbers net.
32’ Portland’s first chance of the game fell to the feet of Santiago Moreno, who made a great run in the box off of a speedy Dairon Asprilla counter-attack and sent a shot on goal from a tight angle at the near post. Stuver was up to it though and made the save.
36’ Evander tried to curl a low shot from outside the box, but Stuver was up to that as well and smothered it.
39’ GOAL TIMBERS! 1-0. Austin failed to fully clear a ball in the box, and Felipe Mora was the first to react and poke it home past Stuver. The play was set up by Asprilla muscling off defenders to collect a bouncing ball, drive to the byline, and cut it back into the box to create the chaos.
HALFTIME: Austin - 0, Timbers - 1.
Despite getting outshot 8-5 and out-possessed 66%-34%, and also getting played off the field for stretches, at halftime the Timbers held the advantage in the scoreline.
48’ Asprilla sent a header spinning just wide, as the Timbers jumped out on the front foot in the second half.
60’ Evander tried a cheeky and hard shot that just skipped wide of the post.
65’ GOAL TIMBERS! 2-0 Yimmi Chara lofted in a great ball towards Mora at the far post, who volleyed it right onto the doorstep of Austin’s goal with his chest. Evander was first on the scene, and he smashed it home without any mercy to double Portland’s advantage.
73’ Moreno found himself with a chance to ice the match, but he waited just a moment too long to take his shot and former Timber Julio Cascante slid in and blocked the attempt.
75’ Goal Austin 2-1. Moments after Portland had a chance to go three clear, they had their lead cut in half. Sebastian Drisussi made a good run to streak in behind Portland’s defense and collect the ball, and while Bingham did well to save his initial shot, Drisussi collected his own rebound and fired into the upper 90 to bring the hosts right back into the game.
82’ Franck Boli was the next to have a chance to secure the three points for Portland, but he sent his shot agonizingly wide of the post.
83’ A lengthy delay ensued due to a nasty looking clash of heads between Dario Zuparic and Will Bruin, which ended in Bruin having to be stretchered out of the game with a gnarly looking bloody head wound.
88’ Ring sends a curler just high of the goal, sending everyone’s hearts into their mouths.
Seven minutes of time added at the end of the match must have drove hearts even higher, as Portland battled to hold on to their lead.
But hold onto their lead they did.
FULL TIME: Austin - 1, Timbers - 2
The playoff hunt is well and truly alive, and it came as the result of a win in Texas — just like we all predicted.
After an absolutely abysmal opening half-hour Portland remembered how to play soccer, and then were the better team for pretty much the rest of the game. Credit has to be given to Santiago Moreno and Dairon Asprilla, who were the catalysts for Portland’s offensive output on either side of halftime.
Credit also has to be given to interim Timbers head coach Miles Joseph, who made a gutsy call with his formation and tactics tonight. Pushing Moreno and Evander higher wound up being the difference that helped Portland keep Austin on their heels — and it was a result of Joseph’s in-game adjustments that helped to make that shift stick and create that advantage.
The win not only lifted Portland above the playoff line, but also continued to lift the spirits and confidence of the team. Since the August 30 match against RSL, Joseph has been pushing the right buttons for the Timbers. It will take more efforts like the one tonight or the one last week against LAFC if they want to consolidate that belief into a spot in the postseason.
But if they continue this upward trend, we shouldn’t be surprised if Joseph sees that “interim” tag lifted for 2024.
Joseph and the Timbers will continue their march up the table on Wednesday, September 20 when they host Jeremy Ebobisse and the San Jose Earthquakes at Providence Park, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. PT.