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FC Dallas 2:3 Portland Timbers
by Brennan Burns
The Portland Timbers braved the blistering climate of Texas Wednesday evening to squeak out 3-2 winners over FC Dallas in the US Open Cup quarterfinals at FC Dallas Stadium.
Century mark temperatures set the stage for an instantaneously epic encounter, a come from behind win via goals from Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri, and Frederic Piquionne enough to overcome an opening tally from FCD’s Je-Vaughan Watson and outlast a late score from Blas Perez that put a real scare into Portland.
Caleb Porter started a full strength side for Portland, Ryan Johnson the only change from the 3-nil league win over the Colorado Rapids last weekend.
Schellas Hyndman brought most of his regulars as well, Chris Seitz in goal for Raul Fernandez and Walker Zimmerman on for Matt Hedges at centerback. Perez also made his return at forward, a combination of international absences and ailments keeping him primarily sidelined in recent contests for Dallas.
For a Portland squad leaving sixty degree temps in Cascadia to play in heat forty degrees higher in Frisco, the sweltering conditions served up a formidable obstacle to success even prior to taking the pitch.
The weather cooled off to an uncomfortable 95 degrees by kickoff, and the energy sapping heat surely played a part in setting a lackluster tempo in the opening exchanges. The match heated up once the bush league webstream broadcast was finally online in the 13th minute, when it took less than two minutes for the home club to get on the board.
Lax marking by the Timbers lent too much space to Je-Vaughan Watson just outside the eighteen yard box, who curled his shot into the far corner to catch Donovan Ricketts unsighted in the 15th minute.
Before Portland could catch their collective breath Jackson attempted an audacious bicycle kick inside the box, Ricketts grateful to corral the chance this time. Shortly after Perez got the better of Pah Modou Kah from close range, but Ricketts was again there to diffuse the danger.
Rodney Wallace finally gave the visitors something positive going forward as he blasted a shot from distance, but the ball went directly at Seitz as the half hour mark neared.
FCD wasted little time reasserting their dominance, a through ball from David Ferreira releasing Fabian Castillo into space where Ricketts was again required to intervene. Another chance was thwarted by Jack Jewsbury moments later as he got a touch to deter an inventive run from Jackson.
Portland captain Will Johnson had a go as the interval approached, his bending effort tipped wide of the far post. On the ensuing corner Kah rose highest to win the ball, but the Gambian’s header missed the mark in the best chance of the match for the Timbers thus far.
This set off a string of late chances for the visitors in the final minutes ahead of halftime. The skipper made an acrobatic effort of his own, but Zimmerman got in the way before the official bewilderingly blew the whistle before Andrew Jean-Baptiste narrowly put the ball wide into the side netting on the rebound.
Ryan Johnson then got involved as he rounded Dallas defender George John to square a centering ball to Will Johnson, but the midfielder failed to put his header on frame and agonizingly watched it deflect off Jair Benitez out of bounds.
Seitz punched clear a promising free kick, and soon after a Wallace cross found Jean-Baptiste in the middle of the box only for the Portland centerback’s header to loop over the crossbar to end any hopes of a first half equalizer.
Porter made one change at the break as Piquionne replaced Ryan Johnson, and Portland continued their intensity when play resumed after intermission as Kah was booked for a hard tackle on Andrew Jacobson.
Dallas retaliated with more attacking flair, Castillo bursting down the left to find countryman Ferreira with a cross, but the Colombian lacked power in a header that Ricketts easily collected. Castillo created the next chance as well when he picked out Jacobson at the top of the box, but Kah sacrificed his face to keep the shot at bay.
The hosts would rue not finding a second goal in the 61st minute, a mazy run to the byline by Nagbe bursting beyond Jacobson and Zach Loyd to slip the ball past Seitz just past the hour mark.
Nagbe wasted no time putting Portland on top when he sent a ball into space for Valeri, the Argentine all alone as he nutmegged Seitz on a breakaway goal in the 63rd minute.
In what early on appeared to be a wilting Timbers side, the Rose City club’s offense bloomed deep in the heart of the Dallas defense to turn the match on its head in a span of three minutes.
FCD were hopeful of an immediate equalizer, but a chance went begging as Ricketts again came up big in a land known for large things.
Ramon Nunez came on in the 68th minute for the goalscoring Watson, but before he could impose himself on the proceedings Piquionne picked off a poor back pass from Zimmerman to slot easily past Seitz in the 72nd minute.
Ben Zemanski joined the match in the 74th minute in place of Nagbe, instantly entering the fray with a slick pass into Wallace, the Costa Rican powering a shot to force Seitz into a corner. Another shot from Wallace tested Seitz again a minute later, the Timbers evidently not losing any steam as the match wore on.
Hyndman tried to light a spark by bringing on former Timber Kenny Cooper in the 77th minute, but any chance of a comeback in this contest was quickly evaporating for the hosts.
Dallas hopes were restored momentarily when a free kick was awarded in the 81st minute and Benitez whistled it over the Portland wall, but only long enough for Ricketts to quash it with a stellar save. An inswinging ball from the corner kick turned into a header that at first looked on target, instead settling into the top of the net.
Porter looked to run out the clock when he subbed off Kah for fellow Gambian Mamadou ‘Futty’ Danso in the 84th minute, but Ricketts would make things interesting when he failed to clear a seemingly innocuous ball in the 86th minute.
What appeared a simple catch for the netminder was turned into a pitiful punch out, the ball dropping into the lap of Perez who made no mistake as he poked home with his head from inside the six yard box.
Dallas were suddenly on the front foot, and their fortunes turned further when the official offered another opportunity when Ferreira was grazed at the edge of the box as full time passed. Benitez struck the set piece well, but Portland were thankful as the shot went wide after it pinballed through the box and out of bounds.
The Timbers shakily saw out injury time in frantic fashion, an open chance from Valeri wasted as the Argentine missed from mere yards out, then Ferreira watched in agony as he crushed a ball past Ricketts only for the goalpost to rob him of a tying goal at the death.
Portland walk away deserved winners in spite of a heroic fightback from Dallas, and the Timbers now move on to play in the USOC semifinals against Real Salt Lake, 3-nil winners over the second division Carolina Railhawks in one of the less eye catching www.footballscores.com/ of the quarter final round.