PORTLAND — Darlington Nagbe continued to confound FC Dallas, and Diego Valeri continued to create goals as the Portland Timbers won a hard-fought 2-1 win at sold-out Jeld-Wen Field on Saturday.Ryan Johnson and Nagbe scored for Portland on a night when all of the goals came before halftime, giving the Timbers nice kick start to a key four-game stretch.
Portland (nine wins, three losses, 11 draws) is now third in the ultra-tight Western Conference standings.
The Timbers’ 38 points from 23 matches have them one point behind a Colorado team that has played three more games. Real Salt Lake, which visits Portland on Wednesday, is first with 41 points despite losing Saturday to the Galaxy in Los Angeles.
FC Dallas (8-7-9) is winless in its last 11 matches and sits seventh in the West.
“We want to hit the last stretch sprinting. We don’t want to wait to the last three or four games to start sprinting,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said.
Saturday’s first half was a sprint that featured free-flowing play, and could easily have finished with more than the three goals.
Johnson scored his eighth goal of the season in the 26th minute, rising to meet a Valeri corner kick squarely to drive it into the goal from six yards away.
Dallas took less than two minutes to respond, as a combination of one-touch passes found Mauro Diaz free in the 18-yard box.
“It was a great play on their part. A nice little combination,” Porter said.
The Timbers coach described Dallas as one of the more talented teams in MLS and called this a quality win.
The goal that earned the win came five minutes after Dallas scored. Valeri dribbled to the edge of the 18-yard box and played a pass to his right that Nagbe touched once then smashed into the side netting for a 2-1 lead. Nagbe scored a goal in all four games against Dallas this season, including Portland’s Open Cup win. He has seven goals in league play.
Valeri’s two first-half assists pushed his season total to 10, a single-season record for the Timbers in their three MLS seasons. The Argentine has set up six consecutive Portland goals in league play.
The assists came after Valeri missed badly in the 21st minute on an almost certain goal after Ben Zemanski’s work sent Valeri into the 18-yard box alone. Dallas also missed a high-quality scoring chance when David Ferreira sent a 32nd-minute opportunity high.