PORTLAND — It might not have created the buzz usually experienced when the Portland Timbers go to work at Jeld-Wen Field, but Wednesday’s win over the Tampa Bay Rowdies was a forward step for the home team.
Specifically, the Timbers are one of the eight clubs still in contention for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, a first for Portland.
Midfielders Michael Nanchoff and Jack Jewsbury scored goals as Portland defeated the Rowdies 2-0 in front of a crowd announced at 5,931. The win means Portland will travel to play FC Dallas on June 26 in the quarterfinal round of the Cup tournament. Dallas, which visits Jeld-Wen Field on Saturday for a match between two of the top teams in Major League Soccer, defeated Houston 3-0 on Wednesday to advance to the Open Cup quarterfinals.
Facing a busy schedule of league games — starting with Saturday’s nationally-televised battle with Dallas — Timbers coach Caleb Porter rested most of his established starters. The exceptions were Diego Valeri — who played as an attacking midfielder before giving way to Jewsbury at halftime — forward Frederic Piquionne, and central defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste. Piquionne gave way for Darlington Nagbe 60 minutes into the match.
“We wanted to manage this game and the Saturday game in a way where we’d get a result today, but also where we’d have a fresh group for Saturday,” Porter said. “We accomplished exactly what we wanted to.”
Nanchoff took advantage of his chance to play in a meaningful match.
In the ninth minute, the midfielder got his left foot around a bouncing ball and volleyed it from the top left corner of the 18-yard box inside the opposite post for the goal.
“It felt great to score my first goal, especially in front of the Timbers Army, it was pretty special,” Nanchoff said.
In the 55th minute, Nanchoff took the free kick 40 yards from goal that resulted in the Timbers second goal. Piquionne outjumped a defender and headed Nanchoff’s offering to the front of the goal where Jewsbury arrived and directed the ball past goalkeeper Diego Restrepo.
Nanchoff said he asked Piquionne to head for the back post, knowing the forward is good in the air.
“I’m not sure if he was too happy I was telling him to get in the box because he was so tired,” Nanchoff said. “But he did an incredible job of getting on the end of it and crossing it to Jack for the goal.”
Nanchoff also made an impression on Porter, who coached him at Akron — both for his solid play and for knocking Porter down at the knees while chasing the ball during the first half.
“He was trying to get back at me for a lot of years of yelling at me,” Porter quipped.
“Through all of the years that he’s tormented me, it was pretty awesome to be able to get back at him,” Nanchoff joked. “I hope his knees are OK, but sorry Caleb. Sorry I’m not sorry.”
The final 15 minutes would have been more interesting had Tampa Bay’s Luke Mulholland scored on a 25-yard free kick that bounced off the cross bar in the 79th minute.
Sal Zizzo played right back for the Timbers, a chance to demonstrate his versatility. Ryan Miller, a starter when the season opened, played left back, with Jean-Baptiste and Raushawn McLenzie in the middle of the defense. They made sure goalkeeper Milos Kocic had a quiet night.
Kalif Alhassan and Jose Valencia played attacking roles. Valencia’s header from a Nanchoff feed in the 69th minute was ruled offside, and moments later his low shot was saved by Restrepo.
Alhassan played 75 minutes before giving way for Steven Evans.