Jul 21, 2018; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Timbers forward Samuel Armenteros (99) raises his arms to fans after scoring a goal Montreal Impact in the first half at Providence Park. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
The Portland Timbers haven’t had to play from behind at home many times this season. Prior to Saturday, the Timbers had conceded the first goal at Providence Park just once in nine games overall this year.
But the Timbers had no choice but to fight back from a one-goal deficit Saturday night after they conceded first and went into halftime down 2-1 to the Montreal Impact. Despite faltering in the first half, Portland got the job done in the second 45 minutes.
The Timbers (8-3-7, 31 points) extended their unbeaten streak to 13 games in MLS play and stayed undefeated at home as they battled back to earn a 2-2 draw with Montreal (9-12-1, 28 points) in front of 21,144 fans at Providence Park Saturday.
The Timbers are still two games short of tying their all-time record (15) for consecutive games unbeaten in MLS play.
“They fought all the way to the end,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. “It’s what we want. We want a team that never gives up and they did that. They believed all the way until the end.”
Portland was playing its third game in seven days Saturday, while the Impact were competing in their third match in eight days. A total of four Timbers players started in all three matches in the compacted schedule.
One player that the Timbers clearly missed Saturday was midfielder Diego Chara, who was suspended for yellow card accumulation. Without Chara bossing the midfield, the Timbers looked disjointed at times centrally and struggled on defense, particularly in the first half. Portland has not won a game without Chara in 19 matches, dating back to July 2015.
Timbers Designated Player Fanendo Adi was also not in the 18 for the second game in a row Saturday. Timbers owner Merritt Paulson said last week that the club could potentially sell “a big player” in the near future and there has been speculation that Adi could be that player.
“I think there are things sometimes that stay between a player and a coach for decisions that are made,” Savarese said. “I think this is one of those cases where I think things need to be kept between a player and a coach.”
After going 7-0-2 in their first nine games overall at home this season and looking in control in the majority of those matches, the Timbers couldn’t prevent Montreal from getting on the board first Saturday.
Impact forward Alejandro Silva got around Timbers defender Julio Cascante and midfielder Lawrence Olum in the 23rd minute before dribbling into the box. Silva then cut the ball back to Montreal midfielder Saphir Taider, who fired a low shot into the corner of the net.
The Timbers found the equalizer in the 39th minute after Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush failed to control a shot from Cristhian Paredes. Timbers forward Samuel Armenteros took advantage of the mistake, lifting his foot up to the ball and knocking it into the net for his seventh goal of the year.
But Portland barely had time to celebrate before Montreal took back the lead.
Impact forward Ignacio Piatti fired a long pass from deep in the midfield up to Matteo Mancosu, who caught the Timbers sleeping as he got behind the backline unmarked and slotted the go-ahead goal into the net in the 41st minute.
“It’s a game of two halves,” said Savarese, who implied that the compacted schedule played a role in Portland’s first half performance. “The first half, we didn’t bring the energy we needed to bring. We were not organized in the way we usually are. We allowed two goals on plays where usually we don’t allow those plays to happen.”
After struggling in the first 45 minutes, the Timbers came out with renewed energy in the second half.
Bush once again failed to control a ball in the 65th minute as he knocked a cross from Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco up in the air. Bush tried to collect the ball as it came back down, but Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri got his head on it and scored to tie the game up at 2-2. Valeri now has seven goals this season.
Portland continued to pressure Montreal throughout the second half, but couldn’t find the go-ahead goal.
“I thought the second half, we did a great job,” Savarese said. “We should have done the same thing in the first half.” ___
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