PORTLAND — Darlington Nagbe has scored his share of spectacular goals in his three seasons with the Portland Timbers.
But none more special than the turnaround back-post number he dropped on FC Dallas Saturday afternoon at raucous Jeld-Wen Field.
“The other times we haven’t won the games when I’ve scored goals like that,” Nagbe noted in the aftermath of a 1-0 win over the top team in the Major League Soccer standings.
The win stretched Portland’s unbeaten string to 13 games, and improved the Timbers to 26 points (6-1-8) in the standings. Dallas leads MLS with 28 points and lost for only the third time this season.
The 1-0 score doesn’t begin to tell the story of this battle. Scoring chances were frequent from start to finish. It wasn’t until Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts dove in front of a cross in the final seconds of extra time that the sellout crowd of 20,674 could celebrate one of the bigger wins in the Timbers’ brief MLS history.
Nagbe’s magic came early in the second half, shortly after he shifted forward in the formation. Kalif Alhassan had the ball on the left edge of the penalty area. Nagbe made a diagonal run trying to create space for Alhassan. Instead, Alhassan sent a pass to Nagbe’s feet.
“I saw the defender coming in hard, so I just cut it back and the ball laid out perfectly for me and I just put it in the back corner,” Nagbe said.
“I didn’t plan that, but once I cut it back and I saw the corner I just put it there.”
Timbers coach Caleb Porter was quick to put Saturday’s win in perspective, noting that his team has a game at Los Angeles on Wednesday. But he also appreciated the intense effort and quality performance delivered by two determined teams on a hot afternoon.
“You had both goalkeepers standing on their heads. You had very creative individual attacking players that were highlighted. There was a lot of the ball on the ground (with) possession and flow,” Porter said.
Each keeper was credited with seven saves, as Dallas took 19 shots and Portland 18. Dallas’ Raul Fernandez robbed Diego Chara of goals once in each half, and Chara also missed wide on a breakaway that would have given Portland some second-half breathing room. The Dallas goalkeeper also pushed away a Diego Valeri blast.
Ricketts’ work included reaction stops on a pair of shots from Jackson, one in the last breaths of the first half and another on a well-struck free kick in the 61st minute.
Porter said a key to holding the lead was having more possession in the second half. Still, with Dallas throwing players forward, Ricketts had to make one last big play in extra time. The 6-foot-3 keeper dove on the ground to cut of a Fabian Castillo cross with two unmarked Dallas players closing on the ball.
“He’s an amazing keeper with a lot of experience,” said Jean-Baptiste, who had gone to help Jack Jewsbury cut off Castillo. “(Ricketts) read the play. He read the danger.”
And secured a win that has Portland threatening Dallas’ league lead.
• Nagbe tied Will Johnson for the team lead in goals with his fifth of the season. He also leads the Timbers with 13 career MLS goals. But Saturday was the first time his mother was on hand to see him score for the Timbers, making the moment that much more special for the 22-year-old.
• Former Timbers forward Kenny Cooper did not play. He flew back to Dallas early Sunday because of an unexplained family emergency. Eric Hassli started at striker for Dallas, but played only eight minutes before leaving with an injury. With Blas Perez away on international duty, Dallas was missing all of its top scorers, but was still plenty dangerous on the attack.
• Despite a physical, intense tone, referee Armando Villarreal issued only one yellow card, that to the Timbers Diego Chara for persistent infringement after he committed his third foul of the game in the 66th minute.
• In addition to the injured Danso, Porter used his three substitutions to replace striker Frederic Piquionne with Ryan Johnson in the 72nd minute and replaced attack-minded Alhassan with midfielder Ben Zemanski in the 84th minute.
TIMBERS 1, FC DALLAS 0
FC Dallas 0 0—0
Portland 0 1—1
Second half—1, Portland, Nagbe 5 (Alhassan), 52nd minute.
Goalies—FC Dallas, Raul Fernandez; Portland, Donovan Ricketts.
Yellow Cards—Chara, Portland, 66th.
Referee—Armando Villarreal. Assistant Referees—Craig Lowry. Ian Anderson. 4th Official—Daniel Radford.
FC Dallas—Raul Fernandez, George John, Jair Benitez, Michel, Zach Loyd, Matt Hedges, Jackson, David Ferreira, Andrew Jacobson, Fabian Castillo, Eric Hassli (Je-Vaughn Watson, 8th).
Portland—Donovan Ricketts, Pa-Modou Kah, Michael Harrington, Mamadou Danso (Andrew Jean-Baptiste, 51st), Kalif Alhassan (Ben Zemanski, 84th), Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Will Johnson, Jack Jewsbury, Diego Valeri, Frederic Piquionne (Ryan Johnson, 72nd).