Both clubs knew what a result could mean tonight. For New Mexico United (8-6-9) a win would solidify their claim to a playoff berth. For Portland Timbers 2 (8-7-8) it would be a chance to get back into the playoff discussion. The night couldn’t have started any better for the hosts.
Minutes into the match, United would concede off a set piece for the third time in two matches. An early corner for Portland would fall to Foster Langsdorf. On a half volley, Langsdorf would find the top left corner to put stake the hosts to the early lead.
The lions share of possession would fall to United for the entire first half. They wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it, however. While managing eight shots throughout the half, none of them would force Timbers keeper Aljaz Ivacic into action.
Neither side felt the need to make a change out of halftime, nor would either be able to find a way to change the scoreline in the opening minutes of the second half. That would change just before the hour mark. Ryan Sierakowski would double the hosts’ lead with a rocket out of the reach of Cody Mizell.
Down by two goals, United would begin to press the issue in an attempt to pull a goal back. Devon Sandoval would come within inches of pulling one back as his shot ricocheted off of the post. Moments later, another attack from United would result in a penalty being awarded to the visitors. The club’s leading scorer, Kevaughn Frater would be given the chance to step to the spot. Ivacic would guess the wrong direction, but Frater’s shot would sail well over the bar.
United would maintain the pressure on the Timbers 2 defense as the clock crept ever closer to full time. It would take the efforts of the Spaniard Santi Moar for United to finally get on the board. With fantastic footwork, Moar would nutmeg defender Nathan Smith before a top-shelf finish.
The visitors’ hopes of salvaging at least a point took a major blow only minutes later. A questionable call from the referee allowed Timbers 2 a chance from the spot. Timbers captain Todd Wharton would put a shot into the lower right corner. Mizell made a diving attempt and was able to get fingertips to the ball, but it was just too far for him to make the save.
Down by two again, Manny Padilla would pick up his second yellow card of the night and be sent off. With his side now shorthanded, Head Coach Troy Lesesne’s side had an even tougher challenge ahead of them. David Estrada would manage to put in his second goal of the season and give United another chance at salvaging a point.
With the last few minutes ticking away and at a one-goal disadvantage, United would pull out all the stops to try and steal a point. Even after sending Mizell forward, a last chance corner would amount to nothing for United and Portland would end up the victors by a final of 3-2.
Player of the Match
Santi Moar – Santi was relentless in the attack all night. He disrupted the Portland defenders and made runs on each side of the field when called upon. His ball skills allowed him to get in close and find a finisher for his tenth goal of the campaign.
United return home for a match next weekend against LA Galaxy 2. What was already expected to be a tough task for the club became even tougher after tonight. Both Suggs and Padilla will miss the match after picking up their fifth yellow and a red card respectively.
That match will take place on Saturday, August 17 with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. (Mountain).
Photo courtesy Craig Mitchelldyer / Portland Timbers 2