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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Feb. 29, 2024

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Valeri scores twice, Timbers beat Sounders 3-1

By , Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter
Published:

PORTLAND — Diego Valeri’s impact on the Portland Timbers is no secret.

Still, the Argentine playmaker admitted he surprised himself with the second of his two goals in Sunday’s 3-1 Timbers win over the Seattle Sounders.

Battling Joevin Jones in the right side of the penalty area, Valeri somehow turned a right-footed shot beyond the reach of goalkeeper Stefan Frei and off the inside of the left post to score from a ridiculously difficult angle.

“I tried to put the ball there. Maybe someone got a deflection. Tried to put a hard ball for the keeper and I was lucky, of course,” Valeri said.

Only time will tell if that unlikely goal can alter the trajectory of a Timbers season that has seen more struggle than sensational. But if another late-season charge is ahead for Portland, staying healthy is critical.

Sunday was a perfect demonstration of the impact that designated players — the highest paid guys on the roster — make in MLS. Valeri scored twice and was quick to turn possession into attacking moments.

Seattle coach Sigi Schmid compared Valeri’s importance for Portland to Clint Dempsey’s significance for Seattle. Dempsey did not play Sunday, having seen a red card in the previous match.

“(Valeri) was good. But we need to get tighter to him. If you give him that much time and space, he’ll show you he’s a good player. We gave him too much time and space,” Schmid said.

Valeri’s own coach certainly felt fortunate to have his playmaker back in the lineup. Valeri had missed the previous three matches with a foot injury.

In fact, Caleb Porter noted that Sunday was the first time since the season-opener that all of Portland’s key field players have been available together.

“Big players step up in big games and make plays,” Porter said. “All the guys that performed last year in a way that helped us do what we did, they all brought that today, and I’m confident moving forward we can continue that.”

One of the key contributors was Lucas Melano. Signed a year ago as a designated player, Melano shook off an early miss and set up two of the Timbers goals on Sunday.

Late in the first half, it was Melano’s speed that sprung the counter attack that Valeri finished to put Portland up 1-0. First Melano fought off a defender, then he worked a give and go with Valeri who curved a 20-yard shot around Frei and inside the right post.

Valeri joked that the key to the play was Melano waiting for him to catch up.

“He’s so fast so I couldn’t follow him. He waited for me and on top of the box I just look at the keeper and tried to put it in the net,” Valeri said.

The third goal was all Melano. He dribbled the ball from one penalty area to the other. It looked like he missed a chance to set up Fanendo Adi, but he found the big forward onside and open to his left, and Adi directed the ball into the open goal. Coming five minutes after Chad Marshall had given the Sounders life by scoring from a corner kick, the play was a momentum shifter.

Timbers defender Nat Borchers said Melano’s performance was a positive sign.

“He’s a big-time player for us. We ask him to do a lot. We ask him to get forward and counter. We also ask him to defend,” Borchers said. “It’s always tough coming into this league. It’s such a physical league to ask a player from a different league to do so many different things. But I think he’s looking more comfortable.”

Notes

 Darlington Nagbe and defender Liam Ridgewell will represent the Timbers at the MLS All-Star Game. The MLS All-Stars take on Arsenal on July 28 at San Jose.

— The Timbers (7-6-8, 29 points) are tied with Vancouver for fifth place in the Western Conference. They are unbeaten in nine consecutive league games. Next up is a Saturday afternoon home match against the L.A. Galaxy. Seattle (6-11-2, 20 points) is ninth in the West.

— Portland and Vancouver are both 2-1 in Cascadia Cup matches this season. Seattle is 0-2.

— Portland is 4-2-2 in regular-season MLS home games against Seattle. The rivals also play on Aug. 28 in Seattle and on Aug. 18 in Portland.

TIMBERS 3, SOUNDERS 1

Seattle 0 1—1

Portland 1 2—3

First half—1, Portland, Diego Valeri 8 (Lucas Melano), 44th minute.

Second half—2, Portland, Diego Valeri 9 (Jermaine Taylor), 50th, 3, Seattle, Chad Marshall 3 (Andreas Ivanschitz), 59th, 4, Portland, Fanendo Adi 10 (Lucas Melano), 64th.

Goalies—Seattle, Stefan Frei; Portland, Jake Gleeson.

Yellow Cards—Jack Jewsbury, Portland, 11th minute, Joevin Jones, Seattle, 37th, Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle, 66th.

Red Cards—None.

Referee—Jair Marrufo. Assistant Referees—Frank Anderson, Jeff Hosking. 4th Official—Mark Geiger.

A—21,144 (21,144)

Lineups

Seattle—Stefan Frei; Tyrone Mears, Brad Evans, Chad Marshall, Joevin Jones (Dylan Remick, 72nd); Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan, Erik Friberg; Jordan Morris, Nelson Valdez (Herculez Gomez, 77th), Andreas Ivanschitz (Aaron Kovar, 72nd).

Portland—Jake Gleeson; Alvas Powell, Nat Borchers, Liam Ridgewell, Jermaine Taylor; Jack Jewsbury (Ben Zemanski, 65th), Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri (Jack Barmby, 90+2), Lucas Melano (Ned Grabavoy, 83rd); Fanendo Adi.

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Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter