PORTLAND — It is difficult to discern if Tuesday’s outing at Jeld-Wen Field will have any lasting impact on the Portland Timbers’ 2012 season.
But at least the exhibition match against Aston Villa of the English Premier League provided the struggling Timbers and their fans some needed enjoyment.
Aston Villa won a ceremonial penalty-kick tiebreaker after the clubs played to a 2-2 draw in front of an announced sellout crowd of 20,438. The visitors made all five of their penalty kicks, and Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan stopped Bright Dike’s attempt to decide the tiebreaker.
The match was more than an exhibition for Brent Richards. For the Camas native and for several other young Timbers, this match was a chance to log valuable minutes against a team from the world’s most competitive league.
Rookie Sebastian Rincon scored his first goal for the Timbers, and Rodney Wallace tied the score with a shot that took a crazy deflection as Portland rallied twice to tie the visitors from Birmingham, England.
Richards, a rookie from Camas, made his first start with the Timbers’ first team and played into the 69th minute, mostly on the left wing. Both he and the coaches called it his best outing so far for the club.
“I was real happy to be out there and to get that start,” Richards said. “There were a lot of positives in that game for me.”
Richards started at forward alongside Kris Boyd in a 4-4-2 formation. In the 10th minute, he drew a free kick for Portland 35 yards from goal when he was fouled while dribbling into the attacking third of the field.
Richards was more involved in the match after trading places with Darlington Nagbe and moving to the left wing.
In the 22nd minute, Richards beat a defender on the wing, earning the first big cheer of the night from the fans and giving the Timbers a chance to attack the visitors’ 18-yard box with possession.
Richards also won a couple of challenges defending Portland’s 18-yard box, and in the 27th minute started a promising counter attack for the home team.
Like each Portland attack in the first half, it fizzled.
Portland pushed its formation forward after halftime and created a few half-chances, including Richards’ three touches inside the 18-yard box. The best of those was a header attempt that sailed high off a Sal Zizzo corner kick in the 57th minute.
Richards said he should have scored there.
“That was a perfect ball by Sal,” Richards said. “I thought I’d risen to meet the ball the right way. I connected well. I just didn’t head it down.”
Still, the experience lifted Richards’ confidence.
He has played as a substitute in two of the last three MLS matches for the Timbers, including last weekend’s loss at FC Dallas, but Tuesday was his most extensive outing.
“It does loads for my confidence,” he said. “The coaches said I did some good things out there and it was probably my best performance. So I’m really happy about that.”
Facing another Major League Soccer match when Chivas USA visits Portland on Saturday, Timbers general manager and interim coach Gavin Wilkinson used 20 players during Tuesday’s exhibition.
Three of the game’s goals came from corner kicks. Aston Villa broke through in the 42nd minute, converting an opportunity earned when a 25-yard shot by Barry Bannan was tipped over the crossbar by Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
Perkins had no chance to stop Ciaran Clark’s header from near the far post. Clark was wide open to meet the cross delivered from Bannan.
Rincon’s goal in the 76th minute was a tap-in. Franck Songo’o took a corner kick that Ryan Kawulok headed into the goal mouth for the easy finish.
After Aston Villa’s Matthew Lowton scored from an 80th-minute corner kick, the Timbers’ Wallace tied it in the 81st minute. His shot from outside the penalty area hit a defender and spun beyond the reach of Guzan.
Actor Tom Hanks spoke to the Timbers in the locker room before the match and did the coin flip.
In the 19th minute, the Portland crowd clapped in honor of Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov, who is battling leukemia. Petrov wears No. 19.