PORTLAND — If measured by the lineups sent out for Tuesday’s match between the Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup national soccer championship ranks below league play for Major League Soccer coaches.
And the game at Jeld-Wen Field — for the Timbers sandwiched between MLS games last Saturday and this Friday — was largely uneventful until it was two hours old.
San Jose’s Ike Opara scored in the 120th minute, lifting the Earthquakes to a 1-0 win that advances them to the final MLS Open Cup qualifying round.
Opara’s header from 8 yards beat a diving Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins inside the right post, giving the Earthquakes the win one minute before the outcome would have been decided on penalty kicks.
The result means the Timbers won’t get the chance to match their neighbors to the north.
The Seattle Sounders won the U.S. Open Cup in each of their first two MLS seasons. Portland will turn its focus back to MLS on Friday, when the Philadelphia Union visits Jeld-Wen Field.
The winning goal developed from a San Jose corner kick.
Sam Cronin’s initial cross was cleared back to him, and Cronin’s next ball from the right wing found defender Opara in a position to strike the ball firmly inside the post.
San Jose advances to meet Chicago in the next round of U.S. Open Cup qualifying.
The Earthquakes, like the Timbers fielding a lineup mixed with regulars and second-team players, had the better of possessions and the more dangerous chances in the second half and overtime.
Portland’s best chance to score came early. Defender Kevin Goldthwaite got his head on a free kick, forcing San Jose keeper Andrew Weber to make a save. Spencer Thompson had a shot at the rebound, but Weber was up to the challenge.
In a match marked by hard work and tough fights for possession through midfield, that would be the only quality scoring chance for the home side.
“There wasn’t much in the game,” Timbers coach John Spencer said. “Chances for both teams were very limited and obviously to give up that late goal is a killer for the guys putting in so much effort tonight.”
The performance wasn’t a thing of beauty
Chains of passes were brief, and communication breakdowns far outnumbered plays of purpose.
Neither team could maintain possession long enough for creative buildup. The most interesting aspect of the match were the numerous battles for possession that led to some high-intensity contact, 45 combined fouls and eight combined cautions.
John Spencer started 10 different field players from his starting 11 in last Saturday’s victory over Real Salt Lake.
With the exceptions of midfielder Rodrigo Lopez and rookies Freddie Braun at right back and Spencer Thompson up top, Portland’s lineup featured players who had figured in Spencer’s lineup previously.
“We don’t have a first team and a reserve team,” Spencer said. “We have a squad of players that we feel are good enough to be here. It wasn’t like we were shoving a lot of young guys out there. I think a lot of them have experience; they’ve played in these games before.”
But a lack of chemistry was evident throughout the match, and as time passed Portland relied more on long airborne balls than any kind of sustained possession.
Timbers lineup — GK Troy Perkins, D Freddie Braun, D Kevin Goldthwaite Mamadou Danso (98th), D David Horst, D Steve Purdy, MF Sal Zizzo (Darlington Nagbe 111th), MF James Marcelin, MF. Adam Moffat, MF Rodrigo Lopez (Jeremy Hall (110th), F Ryan Pore, F Spencer Thompson.