PORTLAND — A strong second-half team through the first half of their season, the Portland Timbers didn’t wait for their halftime break to put it to the Colorado Rapids.
Frederic Piquionne and Will Johnson scored first-half goals on Sunday, and the Timbers reached the halfway point of their Major League Soccer schedule with a 3-0 win at Jeld-Wen Field that has them sharing first place in the Western Conference.
Ryan Johnson added a late goal and Rodney Wallace had three assists in his return from the Costa Rica national team, thrilling the crowd of 20,674.
Portland’s MLS unbeaten string has reached 15 games, and the Timbers record of seven wins, nine ties and one loss has them tied with Real Salt Lake at 30 points atop the conference standings. It was the sixth consecutive home shutout in league play for the Timbers.
(Steven Lane/The Columbian)Buy this photo
(Steven Lane/The Columbian)Buy this photo
“What’s scary about this team is we’re just scratching the surface of the team we can be,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said. “A lot of things today, even though it was 3-0, we can be better (at).”
Colorado (5-7-5), which statistically has been more productive than Portland in the opening minutes this season, created a series of early half-chances and spent more time on the attack than did the Timbers to start the match. But it was Portland that scored the early goal.
Piquionne’s first MLS goal was a header off the fingertips of goalkeeper Clinton Irwin and the underside of the crossbar. The play began with Will Johnson quickly sending a free kick up the left wing, giving Wallace time and space for the left-footed ball that Piquionne attacked at the top of the six-yard box.
“I saw Piquionne making a good run. He’s a great player in the air. As soon as I picked my head up he was right there,” Wallace said.
The goal was the 100th Timbers goal in their first 2½ MLS seasons, which Piquionne said added to the moment.
Piquionne was the big on Portland’s second goal, too.
In the final moments of the first half, he won an air battle, flicking a header that sent Wallace dashing toward the penalty area. As the Rapids retreated to defend, Wallace found Will Johnson, who juggled the ball once with his right foot before putting a left-footer into the net.
“I figured that someone would be sliding at my feet, so I just chipped it up in the air and volleyed it with the left,” Will Johnson said. “You don’t know if you’re capable of something like that unless you try it. It’s part of expressing yourself as a player, trying things like that.”
The two first-half goals on Sunday give the Timbers eight on the season. They have scored 20 second-half goals, and their 28 goals lead the league.
“It’s nice to be up a couple goals at halftime, especially when we have this game (at Dallas) on Wednesday,” Porter said. “I thought the guys managed the second half very well. We passed the game out and chewed up large portions of the second half with possession, which is what we wanted to do.”
Portland had only two shots at goal after halftime. The second of those was Ryan Johnson’s 84th-minute finisher after a Ben Zemanski interception set up a counter-attack with Wallace sending the pass to an open Johnson in front.
Colorado finished with 18 shots, compared with only six for Portland. Goalkeeper Donovan Rickets was forced to make only one save to earn his fourth consecutive shutout. The Timbers have not been scored against at home since March 9. That was also the team’s last loss, a 2-1 defeat by Montreal in the second match of the season.
Including the U.S. Open Cup, Sunday’s match was the Timbers fifth in 16 days. They play again on Wednesday at Dallas in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup, then won't see MLS competition until a July 7 match at Columbus.
“Throughout the game we weren’t as sharp as we normally are, especially here at home,” Will Johnson said of the fatigue factor. “Second half, we just did enough to win the game.”
Afterward, the Timbers expressed pleasure in what they have accomplished. But not satisfaction.
“It’s good, obviously. But now it gets even tougher,” Will Johnson said. “There’s no more flying under the radar. We’ve made too many statements. People know we’re a good team, and we’re going to get everybody’s best shot now so we’ve got to be ready for that.”
TIMBERS 3, RAPIDS 0
Colorado 0 0—0
Portland 2 1—3
First half—1, Portland, Piquionne 1 (Wallace, WJohnson), 12th minute. 2, Portland, RJohnson 6 (Wallace, Piquionne), 45th.
Second half—3, Portland, WJohnson 5 (Wallace, Zemanski), 84th.
Goalies—Colorado, Clint Irwin; Portland, Donovan Ricketts.
Referee—Silviu Petrescu. Assistant Referees—Kevin Duliba. Marco Arruda. 4th Official—Jesus Cisneros.
Colorado—Clint Irwin, Drew Moor, German Mera, Chris Klute (Anthony Wallace, 60th), Marvell Wynne, Dillon Powers, Hendry Thomas (Tony Cascio, 78th), Nathan Sturgis, Nick LaBrocca (Jaime Castrillon, 62nd), Deshorn Brown, Atiba Harris.
Portland—Donovan Ricketts, Ryan Miller, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Rodney Wallace, Pa-Modou Kah, Will Johnson, Jack Jewsbury, Diego Valeri (Kalif Alhassan, 84th), Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe (Ben Zemanski, 72nd), Frederic Piquionne (Ryan Johnson, 60th).