Timbers get their kicks in win over Earthquakes

Portland turns in a sharp performance against San Jose

By Paul Danzer, Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter



PORTLAND — It wasn’t exactly an explosion.

But in terms of making noise, and of making something out of their second Major League Soccer season, Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over league-leading San Jose was a resounding success for the Portland Timbers.

Danny Mwanga scored his first goal as a Timber and Jack Jewsbury scored his first of the season as Portland provided plenty of oohs and ahs for a sellout crowd of 20,438 at Jeld-Wen Field.

“Tremendous,” Timbers coach John Spencer said. “We got everything we deserved tonight. Now we’ve got to go and do it on the road.”

The road to a playoff berth, which the Timbers still have as their main objective for 2012, figured to be much more difficult without a win on Tuesday. The Timbers go on the road for a Saturday game against another top team in Real Salt Lake.

Tuesday’s win kicked off a busy July that could shape up as a make-or-break month.

The win over San Jose was extra sweet after a sour loss Saturday in Colorado. And no player earned more redemption than Franck Songo’o.

Playing on the right wing, Songo’o assisted on Mwanga’s first-half goal and took the free kick that produced the second Portland tally. After being replaced for under performing during the game at Colorado, Songo’o provided energy and purpose to the Timbers attack right from the start Tuesday.

“We said today we’ve got to be in the game right from the first 20 minutes,” Songo’o said. “They are a very physical team, a great team. We wanted to show them that we could be dangerous and I think we did that.”

In the seventh minute he took a shot from outside the 18-yard box that missed just wide, and he was willing to attack defenders when the

chances emerged.

Similarly, Eric Alexander was assertive on the left side and had an early shot from inside the 18 that crashed off the left post.

The positive play of the two wide midfielders seemed to energize Darlington Nagbe, who was more active and had more meaningful touches from his attacking spot in the middle of the field than has often been the case this season.

Spencer praised the play of his whole team in the first half, and in holding off a San Jose squad that is known for late-match rallies.

The coach also singled out Songo’o for praise.

“I thought his response tonight was excellent,” Spencer said, complementing Songo’o for both his guile and his guts.

The first goal, in the 29th minute, was a wonderful counter attack that started with a Songo’o takeaway.

Songo’o won the ball near the defensive 18 and passed to an open Alexander for a charge up the middle of the field. Alexander returned the ball to Songo’o with all kinds of space to attack from the right wing, and Mwanga hustled toward the near post to re-direct Songo’os low cross into the goal.

“The timing was perfect and the pass was perfect, too. So you’ve got to give (Songo’o) a lot of credit on that goal,” Mwanga said.

It was a special moment for Mwanga, who played high school soccer in Portland and has watched Timbers games from the stands.

“It’s one of the best feelings ever,” he said.

In the 56th minute, the Mwanga-Songo’o combination almost cashed in again, but Mwanga’s volley try hit the crossbar and a rebound for Kris Boyd was deflected away.

But three minutes later it was 2-0. The second goal came from a free kick that Songo’o took from near midfield, and Jack Jewsbury converted. Jewsbury’s chance to finish at the left post was the result after Futty Danso and San Jose goalkeeper David Bignham arrived simultaneously at the end of Songo’os kick. The ball bounced away from the keeper to Jewsbury for his first goal of the season.

Further proof this was to be the Timbers night came five minutes later when San Jose forward Steven Lenhart had a shot from 8 yards out that curled wide of the post.

But seconds after Songo’o left the field on a stretcher, replaced by Sal Zizzo in the 74th minute after suffering a leg injury, Alan Gordon made it 2-1. Gordon, from point-blank range, found his way through traffic to finish a ball sent into the goalmouth by Marvin Chavez.

With almost 20 minutes left, the Timbers held strong. The result was a win they hope ignites a consistent run of success.