Match Recap & Highlights: Portland Timbers 2 - 1 St. Louis CITY SC
Portland gets revenge over St. Louis in the Timbers' first road win of the season, courtesy of goals from Evander and Yimmi Chara.
In their first rematch of the 2023 season, the Portland Timbers delivered a hot dish of revenge to St. Louis CITY SC as they emerged victorious on the road by a 2-1 margin. Evander scored a penalty in the second half to give Portland the lead, and after the Timbers conceded a momentary equalizer Yimmi Chara announced his return to the field by playing the hero as he fired home the game-winner in the 82nd minute.
The win was marred slightly by the loss of David Ayala, who left the field on the stretcher in the first half after suffering a non-contact knee injury.
The Timbers continued their slow roll towards a fully healthy squad, but still had to deal with some unavailabilities. Dairon Asprilla missed out due to a right knee injury (he was listed as “questionable” on the injury report), and the recently returned Sebastian Blanco wasn’t included in the lineup either. That was almost certainly a pre-planned step in Seba’s recovery to full fitness after he played his first 34 minutes of the 2023 season in a midweek U.S. Open Cup clash last Wednesday.
For the first time since opening weekend, Yimmi Chara was available off the bench — and he would wind up playing a huge role on his return to the field.
Because of the propensity of both sides to cede possession and try to play against the ball, the opening stages of the game were a choppy and disjointed affair. It took 16 minutes to get the first shot of the game (a very off-target shot from a long ways out by Evander), and 24 minutes before the first shot on target (a very easily saved shot from a long ways out by Loria).
The first real flashpoint of the game was not a kind one for the Timbers — as they appeared to lose yet another player due to injury. David Ayala appeared to suffer a non-contact injury to his left knee in the nineteenth minute, and had to be stretchered off the field.
Despite the latest injury to Portland, they managed to keep the game relatively even in the first half. The Timbers found joy attacking on the counterattack, and managed to work the ball into the box on several occasions. But as has been the case all season, they were missing the last bit of quality on the final ball or last moment of composure on the shot.
Without their star striker João Klauss, St. Louis struggled to create consistent offense in the first half as well, and both sides went into halftime with zeroes on the scoreboard. As they were facing the highest-scoring team in the league, Portland was perhaps the happier of the two sides.
That happiness grew as the second half started, as Portland asserted themselves as the better of the two sides coming out of the break. Shots from Moreno and Evander forced Roman Bürki into saves, as the Timbers upped the pressure on the hosts.
As the weather turned and a storm blew into the area, that pressure reached its peak in the 61st minute, as the Timbers earned a penalty kick after St. Louis defender John Nelson was judged to have handled the ball while on the ground after attempting to block a shot. With the rain and wind whipping through CityPark, Evander stepped up and cooly slotted the ball into the far corner, giving Portland a 1-0 lead.
As Portland dropped their line to defend their lead, St. Louis cranked up their own pressure. It paid off in the 79th minute, as Célio Pompeu fired the hosts level after Tomás Ostrák found time and space on Portland’s left flank to get off a low and hard cross in behind the defense. After taking their first lead on the road, the Timbers were pegged back to 1-1.
But that scoreline lasted all of three minutes.
Yimmi Chara, who made his first appearance since opening weekend by subbing on in the 64th minute, received the ball from Moreno after Santi made an excellent run through the heart of the St. Louis defense. Yimmi slammed the ball towards the far post, slotting it into the bottom corner and restoring Portland’s advantage.
After surviving a final push from St. Louis, the whistle for full-time blew with the Timbers emerging victorious on the road for the first time in 2023.
7’ The first real action of the game comes by way of the referee’s pocket, as Zac McGraw was shown a yellow card for a late tackle attempting to stop a St. Louis break. The yellow card now means that McGraw will be suspended for Portland’s next match due to yellow card accumulation.
19’ The injury curse appears to be an ever-present horror for the Timbers, as they appeared to have lost another player. David Ayala went down in considerable pain holding the back of his left knee after a non-contact injury. The midfielder’s left foot appeared to have gotten caught in the grass as he twisted to try to track the ball and he immediately went down, ultimately needing to be carried off the field on a stretcher.
Ayala had to be replaced by Cristhian Paredes, with the Timbers unbelievably having to deal with yet another blow to their central midfield.
Outside of a few forays into the box from either side — that fizzled out without any kind of dangerous shooting opportunities — highlights were very few and far between in the first half.
Halftime: The team went into the locker room locked at zeroes, in what was one of the less-attractive halves of soccer you’ll see in MLS this season. Both teams combined for just seven shots in the opening frame, and only two of those were on target. Still, despite the loss of Ayala the Timbers were perhaps the happier of the two teams in the locker rooms with how the game was progressing.
50’ A curling effort from Boli just missed, as the Timbers started off the second half on the front foot.
52’ Löwen sent an effort just wide of the post, as St. Louis also sought to get into the game.
54’ SO CLOSE! A nice flowing passing move from Portland ended with Paredes laying the ball off to Moreno in the box. Santi smacked it first time, and really should have scored from that distance, but Roman Bürki flew off his line and wound up blocking the shot.
56’ A mis-hit chipped effort from Evander in the middle of the box was right to Bürki’s breadbasket, as the St. Louis ‘keeper made the save.
61’ PENALTY TO THE TIMBERS! Boli curled his run and got on the end of a sweet ball over the top from Moreno. His shot was rebounded by Burki, and as Loria rushed on to try another attempt, St. Louis defender John Nelson went to ground to attempt a block — and was judged to have handled the ball in the process.
Referee Ismail Elfath pointed to the spot, and after a VAR review the penalty call stood.
63’ GOAL TIMBERS! 0-1 Evander stepped up to the spot, and cooly slotted the ball into the bottom corner, wrong-footing Bürki. You can watch the ice-cold penalty here.
64’ In the wake of the goal, Yimmi Chara made his return to the field as he replaced Marvin Loria. Jaroslaw Niezgoda also came on to replace Franck Boli.
70’ Hiebert was shown a yellow card for pushing down Paredes on the break.
79’ Goal St. Louis 1-1. Tomás Ostrák made a run in behind on Portland’s left flank, and his low cross found Célio Pompeu at the near post. Pompeu turned at a tight angle and rifled a shot over Ivacic and into the roof of the net, equalizing affairs — but only briefly…
82’ GOAL TIMBERS! 1-2 On his return to the field, Yimmi Chara gave Portland the lead in the final minutes of the game. Santiago Moreno made a scything run right through the heart of St. Louis’ defense, and laid the ball off for the younger Chara brother. Yimmi finished the chance with aplomb, as he fired a low shot into the far corner past Bürki to give Portland back their one goal advantage. You can watch Santi’s excellent run and Yimmi’s great finish here.
Five minutes of stoppage time were added at the end of the second half, with the Timbers still holding the lead.
90’+2 Mosquera was shown a yellow card for his remonstrations at the referee as he argued a throw-in as Portland was defending their lead.
90’+4 Niezgoda had the chance to end affairs at the death as he volleyed a hard cross from Paredes at the far post — but it flew wide of the goal.
Full Time: Portland Timbers - 2 St. Louis City - 1. The Portland Timbers emerged victorious, by way of a dramatic return to the field from Yimmi Chara. The Timbers returned the favor to St. Louis after suffering defeat in the reverse fixture at Providence Park back in March, which earned Portland their first road win of the season.
I know we all enjoyed the win over Seattle, but I would argue that this win was more impressive. The win over the Sounders was all emotion and chaos — this one was a bonafide solid performance top to bottom from start to finish from the Timbers.
Portland dealt with St. Louis’ much vaunted attack supremely well, and outside of their lone goal the hosts never really came close to putting the ball in the back of the net. Portland’s attack continued to take steps forward, as their counterattacking finally looks like its starting to click again. Yes, St. Louis was pretty poor on the night. But credit to the Timbers for being ruthless and taking advantage.
Kudos go out to Yimmi Chara obviously for his dramatic return to the field, but also to Santiago Moreno, who rode out a case of the yips and turned things around — culminating in his sublime run and assist to Yimmi on the winner. I thought Eric Miller also turned in a good shift, and I think the calls for him to start in Zac Mcgraw’s stead next week should be a little louder.
But of course, because this is the Timbers, we can’t just leave things positive. David Ayala’s injury, which Savarese shared postgame “does not look good” is a gut punch for player and club. Cristhian Paredes put in a very good shift after Ayala had to be stretchered off, but the loss of the Argentine is another man down in a position where Portland is as thin as tissue paper right now.
And more importantly, it is just a gutting injury to suffer for a player who was looking like he was just starting to come into his own.
The Timbers are back in action when they return to Providence Park to face Austin FC. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. PT on Saturday, May 6.