PORTLAND — A match that for 70 minutes looked like a haunting replay of so many in this 2014 Portland Timbers season quickly turned into a result that could breathe life into the team’s playoff aspirations.
Maximiliano Urruti and Diego Valeri scored five minutes apart on Friday as the Timbers clawed back from an early deficit for a much needed 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids at sold-out Providence Park.
The result means Portland (5-6-9) is two points below the current fifth-place spot in the competitive Western Conference standings.
The Timbers climbed within three points of third-place Colorado (7-6-6). Given that Portland’s 20 matches is the most played by any Western Conference club, Friday’s comeback win seems vital.
“At halftime it was tough in here. It was tough to come in here and look everybody in the eye and get back on the same page,” captain Will Johnson said. “You never know what the future’s going to hold, but if we had lost that game it would have been really detrimental to our season.”
The rally started with a quick series of passes through midfield that led to Johnson passing the ball to Jack Jewsbury running free into the right side of the penalty area. Jewsbury’s low cross found Urruti at the near post to slam the ball into the goal, tying the score 1-1 in the 72nd minute. Johnson said he remembered passing to an open Jewsbury 10 minutes earlier and thought that going around Colorado’s defense was the smart play.
Urruti and Gaston Fernandez entered the game in the 61st minute, replacing Fanendo Adi and Steve Zakuani and increasing the tempo of the Timbers attack.
With the Timbers building momentum off a re-invigorated crowd, Valeri launched a laser from well outside of the penalty area, a spectacular goal that put the Timbers up 2-1.
“I’m going to watch that all night long. I’m going to go home on my computer and just hit play over and over again until I fall asleep,” Johnson said. “That’s just a thing of beauty. You don’t see goals like that every day.”
Valeri said his thought was “just strike the ball.”
This time, the Timbers held onto that lead over the final 15 minutes. A shot from Jared Watts from the left side of the penalty area that missed wide in the 86th minute providing a few seconds of trepidation.
Friday was Liam Ridgewell’s first appearance for the Timbers, and the center back from England looked right at home. He was vocal from start to finish in keeping fellow defenders Danny O’Rourke, Michael Harrington and Jewsbury on the same page. Jewsbury started at left back for Jorge Villafana, who came up hobbled on Thursday. At halftime, Porter flip-flopped his fullbacks, switching Jewsbury to the right and Harrington to the left.
Johnson said Ridgewell’s presence was a boost for players and supporters alike. Ridgewell said it took him 15 or 20 minutes to get used to playing on artificial turf.
“I think I settled quite well into the game,” Ridgewell said. “I was glad to win the game which will help me settle in faster.”
Colorado scored in the 16th minute despite the best efforts of Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. First Ricketts dove right to deflect away a shot from distance. On the resulting corner kick, Ricketts made a couple of point-blank reaction stops before Deshorn Brown stepped over the keeper and lifted the ball just across the goal line at the end of a put chaotic sequence.
For most of the next hour, the match looked hauntingly familiar to so many for the Timbers this season. A well organized and determined Rapids defense was preventing the Timbers many looks at goal, and an over-eager attack seemed to get into its own way until the breakout through midfield that changed the match — and perhaps the direction of this season.
“I care mostly how it feels to my guys. It feels good to them,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said.
“Proud of their composure in the second half.”
TIMBERS 2, RAPIDS 1
Colorado 1 0—1
Portland 0 2—2
First half—1, Colorado, Brown 7, 16th minute.
Second half—2, Portland, Urruti 7 (Jewsbury, Johnson), 72nd. 3, Portland, Valeri 4 (Chara), 77th.
Goalies—Colorado, Clint Irwin; Portland, Donovan Ricketts.
Yellow Cards—Powers, Colorado, 37th; O’Rourke, Portland, 45th.
Referee—Ismail Elfath. Assistant Referees—Frank Anderson. Corey Rockwell. 4th Official—Ted Unkel.
Colorado—Clint Irwin, Thomas Piermayr, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Chris Klute, Dillon Serna (Kamani Hill, 83rd), Jared Watts, Dillon Powers, Carlos Alvarez, Marlon Hairston (Gabriel Torres, 65th), Deshorn Brown (Danny Mwanga, 24th).
Portland—Donovan Ricketts, Michael Harrington, Liam Ridgewell, Will Johnson, Danny O’Rourke, Jack Jewsbury, Diego Valeri, Steve Zakuani (Gaston Fernandez, 61st), Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe (Rodney Wallace, 90th+), Fanendo Adi (Maximiliano Urruti, 61st).