Timbers 2, Fire 1
Game changer: Sal Zizzo’s speed on the right wing injected energy into the second half for Portland.
Up next: Spanish side Valencia visits Portland for an exhibition match at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
PORTLAND — Sal Zizzo stepped onto the field at halftime Sunday and quickly took ownership of the eastern sideline at Jeld-Wen Field.
Playing in Portland for the first time since a knee injury in the Timbers’ final home match of 2011, Zizzo’s speed and assertiveness brought some life into the 2012 season as the Timbers won for the first time in a month, beating the Chicago Fire 2-1.
“I think when Sal comes on the crowd appreciate him and it gives you a lift, especially going toward the Timbers Army end,” Portland coach John Spencer said.
Zizzo’s speed helped the Timbers regain momentum in the second half, and his corner kick produced the go-ahead goal as the Timbers won for the third time in six Major League Soccer home games this season.
Never mind that the winning goal was officially an own goal off of Fire captain Logan Pause. Sunday’s victory was deserved as the Timbers played with a higher tempo and confidence than they have displayed for a month. As a bonus, Sunday’s win moves them out of last place in the Western Conference. At 3-5-3, Portland is one point better than the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Both Timbers’ goals resulted from corner kicks Sunday, the first one from defender Eric Brunner for a 1-0 lead in the 20th minute, and the second coming from a Zizzo corner kick that Kris Boyd flicked with his head before it bounced off of Pause and into the goal.
“Boyd’s been making those (near-post) runs in practice, and we look for him to maybe flick it to the far post,” said Zizzo, who initially thought his cross was too low. “He got a flick to it, and it went off a defender and went in.”
Boyd didn’t get credit for a goal Sunday, but the striker deserved acknowledgment for both.
Brunner scored the Timbers’ first goal since an April 14 match at Los Angeles. He scored from right in front of the goal on a sequence that started with a corner kick.
Franck Songo’o took the corner from the left wing. His ball sailed long, but was headed back toward the 6-yard box by Hanyer Mosquera. Boyd — with his back to the goal — kicked the ball forward, and Brunner had inside position on a defender.
“We make our runs and I had to kind of recirculate mine,” Brunner said. “Mosquera did a great job of heading it back into a dangerous area. Kris had a body on (his defender). I saw that and kind of positioned myself where if he doesn’t get a shot, maybe I’m in a good spot to get a whack on target.”
Boyd said he didn’t know Brunner was there.
“You look to get the ball toward the goal” in that situation, Boyd said. “The ball came to Eric and it was a good finish.”
The lead didn’t last the half. The Fire (4-3-3) broke through in the 39th minute, taking advantage of a clearing mistake on a sequence that started from a Chicago free kick. Portland defender Steven Smith, hustling to keep from giving away a corner kick, sent a weak ball up the left sideline that was intercepted. A quick pass from Marco Pappa led to an open chance that Jalil Anibaba converted.
At halftime, Spencer replaced Songo’o with Zizzo, who immediately announced his presence by beating a defender down the sideline. Moments later, he forced a Chicago foul near the 18-yard box on a combination play with Diego Chara.
“When he makes that run and get’s kicked up in the air, you can just tell that the Army are back in the game and all of a sudden it gives us that jolt and we started to be a little more relentless in our attack,” Spencer said. “I think we put them on their back foot for a long time.”
Zizzo said he wanted the Fire to worry about his speed right from the start of the second half.
“You’re going to show that guy that it’s not going to be easy the rest of this half — that every time I get it I’m going to look to go,” Zizzo said.
With Jack Jewsbury out of the lineup with a hip injury, Chara served as Timbers’ captain on Sunday. ... Brunner’s goal was the first time this season the Timbers have scored while attacking toward the south end of Jeld-Wen Field. ... Before Sunday, Portland had not netted a goal this season from a corner kick. ... The match was chippy. Each team was called for 14 fouls. Referee Silvio Petrescu handed out six yellow cards, four of them to the Fire. ... Portland is now 3-0 against the Fire.
TIMBERS 2, FIRE 1
Chicago 1 0—1
Portland 1 1—2
First half—1, Portland, Brunner 1 (Boyd), 20th minute. 2, Chicago, Anibaba 1 (Pappa), 39th.
Second half—3, Portland, Pause (own goal), 52nd.
Goalies—Chicago, Sean Johnson; Portland, Troy Perkins.
Yellow Cards—Chabala, Portland, 45th; Nyarko, Chicago, 45th; Segares, Chicago, 48th; Zizzo, Portland, 79th; Grazzini, Chicago, 80th; Berry, Chicago, 85th.
Referee—Silvio Petrescu. Assistant Referees—Darren Clark. Kevin Duliba. 4th Official—Paul Ward.
Chicago—Sean Johnson, Dan Gargan (Orr Barouch, 81st), Gonzalo Segares, Jalil Anibaba, Austin Berry, Logan Pause (Rafael Robayo, 68th), Sebastian Grazzini, Marco Pappa, Pavel Pardo, Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro (Federico Puppo, 60th).
Portland—Troy Perkins, Mike Chabala, Lovel Palmer, Rodney Wallace, Eric Brunner, Hanyer Mosquera, Steven Smith, Darlington Nagbe (Jorge Perlaza, 67th), Franck Songo’o (Sal Zizzo, 46th), Diego Chara, Kris Boyd.