PORTLAND — With Argentina’s Club Athletico Independiente in town, the Portland Timbers final friendly of 2011 figured to be a demonstration of soccer flair.
Less expected on Tuesday at Jeld-Wen Field was the source of the magic.
Possessing the ball confidently along the ground, the Timbers were the more dangerous side during the first half and scored their first win against an international foe this season.
Goals less than three minutes apart gave the Timbers a 2-0 halftime lead, and that score stood before an announced sellout of 18,627.
Sal Zizzo scored in the 36th minute on a counter-attack. He sliced behind the defense to collect a touch pass from Eddie Johnson and slid his shot from the right side of the penalty area under goalkeeper Hilario Navarro.
In the 39th minute, Brian Umony scored with a header from a free kick. Defender Mike Chabala, in his first Portland match after last week’s trade with Houston, sent the free kick into the penalty area and Umony — who hit the post with an earlier header — was first to the ball, nodding it inside the right post.
Despite standing only 5-foot-8, the 22-year-old said headers are his preferred scoring method.
“The first one (off the post) there was little power on it. The second one had a little bit more power because of an excellent delivery from (Chabala),” Umony said.
With MLS home matches coming Saturday against Tornoto FC and Aug. 3 against the L.A. Galaxy, Tuesday was another chance for lesser-used players to show their skills.
Umony, whose season was interrupted by injury, said the effort and the result provides a lift for himself and fellow second-teamers.
“We needed to win this game and I think it will do a lot of good for our confidence,” Umony said.
Umony wasn’t alone in turning in a strong performance. Rookie Freddie Braun, stationed in the holding midfield spot, had a solid outing, winning his share of battles.
Portland’s defense of David Horst and Steve Purdy in the middle, newcomer Chabala on the left and Jeremy Hall on the right, played 90 panic-free minutes. Goalkeepers Adin Brown and Jake Gleeson combined for a shutout.
Independiente pushed play more aggressively in the second half, forcing Gleeson to make several plays. But, unlike a week ago in a loss to England’s West Bromwich Albion, this 2-0 halftime lead turned into a needed win.
NOTES — The Timbers stuck with the 4-5-1 formation that coach John Spencer turned to several weeks ago, again changing to a 4-4-2 look in some attacking situations. An interesting twist was Kenny Cooper manning the wide slot that Darlington Nagbe has been playing.