Timbers settle for draw with Thunder - The Oregonian
Small consolation for a struggling Portland Timbers squad that eked out a scoreless draw Thursday night against the Minnesota Thunder. With the tie, both teams picked up a point. With a showdown looming Saturday in Vancouver against the first place Whitecaps and the midway mark of the season nearing, the Timbers need all the points they can muster.
"This is definitely going to be a character tester," Timbers forward Chris Bagley said of the upcoming stretch of games. "We'll see what kind of team we are. Right now, we're certainly not slipping. But we don't wanna stay where we are. We wanna move up in the standings, and definitely not down."
With a win Thursday, Portland (4-3-5, 17 points) could have moved into a share of the United Soccer Leagues First Division lead with Vancouver (6-2-1, 19). Instead, they crept into a two-way tie for second place with the Charleston Battery (5-2-2, 17).
A PGE Park crowd of 5,651 saw a rematch of an April 24 contest that the Timbers won 2-1, the second of three victories in a row to start their season. Afterward, Thunder coach Amos Magee praised the Timbers as a team "with an understanding and belief of how to win."
What a difference six weeks makes. The Timbers came into Thursday's rematch reeling. They had scraped out just one win over the previous eight games and lost three of their past four. They returned home from a cross-country road trip earlier this week bruised - physically and mentally. Several Timbers were nursing injuries. For others, their legs hung heavy.
"That heaviness you feel goes away with a win," veteran Portland defender Scot Thompson said before the game.
But the Timbers started slow Thursday. Minnesota (4-3-2, 15) outshot Portland 5-3 in the first half. But the Timbers seemed to gather steam midway through the second period. Bryan Jordan, on loan from Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy, had a couple of good chances to score. As did Chris Brown. And Miguel Guante.
"All we need is one of those to go in, don't we?" Portland coach Gavin Wilkinson said. "Finding the back of the net is the hardest thing to do in the game."
Minnesota had just as many wasted chances. Second-half substitute forward Aaron Peye nearly put the Thunder on top with two one-on-one opportunities in the game's waning moments. The two team's each shot nine times in the second half.
"They're going through a little crisis of confidence," Magee said. "We were on them for 80 of the 90 minutes. They were rattled lit bit. That said, they're still a good team, they still have good pieces, they still have a good coach, and they're gonna figure out ways to get themselves points. And they'll be a team that will be there down the stretch."