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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Dec. 6, 2023

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Timbers make wrong kind of history in U.S. Open Cup loss

By , Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter

PORTLAND — It was a case of Open and shut out for the Portland Timbers on Wednesday at Jeld-Wen Field.

Unable to produce a goal through two hours of soccer, the Portland Timbers made their stay in the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup short and silent.

Well, except for several thousand voices from the Timbers Army section who delivered some clear opinions as Cal FC — a group of amateur players from Southern California — beat the Timbers 1-0 in overtime to advance to the quarterfinals of America’s national soccer tournament.

Artur Aghasyan left the Timbers and the audience of 5,489 aghast when the forward took a pass from Danny Barrera and split the defense for a breakaway goal five minutes into the 30-minute overtime period.

That goal sent Cal FC — whose players don’t practice together and came together last month specifically to enter this tournament — to its third Cup victory.

Next up is a fourth-round match against the Seattle Sounders.

The loss sends the Timbers into a 17-day break from competition that might feel longer.

Timbers coach John Spencer has been talking about his team’s need for better quality on the last pass in attacking situations.

During Wednesday’s match, that deficiency was often glaring. And when the delivery was decent, the shot wasn’t good enough.

Sometimes, as with a series of attempts that sailed over the crossbar, the Timbers were off the mark.

Other times, as on close-range headers from Jorge Perlaza and Brent Richards during the second 15 minutes of overtime, Cal FC goalkeeper Derby Carrillo came up big.

The best chance for a Portland goal came in the 79th minute. A cross from Richards was handled inside the penalty area by Cal FC’s Richard Manjivar. But Kris Boyd’s penalty kick try sailed well high. That brought out a few boos, and was soon followed by this chant from the Timbers Army: “Care like we do.”

But the Timbers’ problems seemed to be more about precision than about passion.

Portland outshot Cal FC 37-8 including 15-3 on goal. The breakaway that produced the goal was the only hint of a scoring chance for the visitors. Portland earned 11 corner kicks to three for Cal FC, and took 18 shots — seven of them on goal — during the overtime.

Camas native Richards replaced Eric Alexander in the 65th minute. Playing on the left side of midfield, Richards immediately had two scoring chances. His right-footed volley off a pass from Boyd and his far-post header of a cross from the right wing each missed just high of the goal.

Those two plays seemed to spark the Timbers attack, and Portland created more assertive play in and around the 18-yard box over the remainder of the evening.

For all their chances, the Timbers heard it from their passionate supporters. Though the Timbers Army continued to encourage the home team at times, it also unleashed chants that were more biting, among them: “This is MLS?”

Actually, Portland was one of eight MLS teams to lose in the third round of the Open Cup. Not among those were the Seattle Sounders, who beat Atlanta 5-1 at Starfire Soccer Complex and will now host Cal FC as they aim for a fourth consecutive Open Cup championship. Had the Timbers won on Wednesday, the Sounders would have come to Portland for the quarterfinals. Which only made it sting more, at least for the Army.

After the final whistle, the chant was: “You deserve it.”

While that opinion might have been directed at either team, moments later the Cal FC team as a group went to applaud the remaining members of the Timbers Army. The response was a loud and clear: “Beat Seattle.”

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