The Houston Dynamo and the Portland Timbers both came into Saturday’s game unbeaten in their first two games. Houston was coming off an impressive performance against the Columbus Crew where their dynamic attacking trio of Romell Quioto, Albert Elis, and Cubo Torres all got on the scoresheet in a 3-1 victory.
Equally as impressive were the Timbers, earning a hard fought 1-0 away win over the Los Angeles Galaxy and a 5-1 demolition of Minnesota United FC. Both teams were coming into this game in offensive form and looking to remain undefeated.
How it Happened
The game got off to a lightning fast start as both teams had early look at goal within five minutes of the starting whistle. The first pivotal moment in the game came in the 10th minute as Sebastian Blanco’s cross made contact with Dynamo defender DeMarcus Beasley’s arm, forcing referee Alan Chapman to point to the spot. Diego Valeri would then step up and bury the penalty kick past a diving Tyler Deric to put Portland up 1-0. The game would then slow down for a bit as the Timbers controlled possession allowing Houston very little time with the ball.
The game would open up again in the 38th minute when Chapman was once more forced to point to the spot due to a handball. This time, though, the call would go against the Timbers, as Diego Chara was found guilty of raising his elbow to block a Torres free kick. Torres would be the man to step up for Houston and bury the spot kick to bring the teams level.
That goal would not be the only strike for the Houston attack as they put in a second just before the halftime whistle. Elis caught the Timbers on a counter and sent a pinpoint pass to Quioto who was blazing toward the back post. Quioto’s deft touch then allowed him to slot the ball past Timbers Goalkeeper Jake Gleeson giving Houston the lead going into the half.
With the second half underway, Caleb Porter’s men proved that they were not willing to lay down quietly in front of their roaring Timbers Army crowd. The second half was a tale of heavy Timber’s possession and constant pressure to Houston’s backline. The Dynamo were forced to sit back and defend as the Timbers sent numbers forward to try and find the equalizer. The efforts would pay off in the 58th minutes as Diego Valeri sent a powerful header past Deric off a beautiful cross from Zarek Valentin.
The score wasn't level for long as it only took seven minutes for the Timbers to find a winner off the boots of David Guzman. The goal began with a poor clearance by the Houston backline falling to the feet of Darlington Nagbe. The young midfielder then slid the ball past the defense, and into the path of Guzman, who only had the goalkeeper to beat. Even up by a goal, the Timbers would not relent the pressure, as desperate defending by the likes of Leonardo was the only thing that kept the score close.
The final ten minutes saw Portland absorb pressure and attempt to see out a win. The Dynamo responded by pushing numbers forward but were unable to create any meaningful opportunities. The numbers dedicated to the attack would leave them vulnerable as Fernando Adi put the game away for Portland in the 88th minute. Adi, now only one goal shy of being the team's all-time scoring leader, capped off a counter by getting around Deric and slotting it in. That goal would be the nail in the coffin as the Timbers would keep their perfect record intact with this 4-2 home win over the Dynamo.
Points of Interest
Cubo and Quioto have each scored in the first three games. The attack looks absolutely lethal on the counter and the opposition are going to have to find a way to deal with the pace of the attacking three. Teams that come at the Dynamo are going to find themselves picking up the ball from the back of their own nets.
The Dynamo managed just 41% possession and only had one shot in the second half. The Dynamo look to be dangerous on the counter, but the rest of the season will show if they have the ability to break down teams who sit and defend. Quioto and Elis are also slow in getting back to defend, which created a lot of space on the wings for Portland to work through.
Sebastian Blanco and Darlington Nagbe continue to be a powerful force in the Timbers midfield. A new signing for the Timbers, Blanco continues to impress with his ability to create on the wings. He spent most of the game causing problems for the Dynamo defense with dangerous crosses into the box. Nagbe’s footwork, vision, and ability to beat defenders 1-on-1 will be a driving force in the Timbers offense this season.
The Dynamo look to rebound at home against the New York Red Bulls on April 1st, while the Timbers go on the road against the Columbus Crew next Saturday. Both teams have shown they are worth watching and have the potential to make the Western Conference an exciting competition.