Timbers run unbeaten streak to five games with 1-1 tie at Minnesota

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Byron Alvarez knocked in his team-leading seventh goal of the season and the Portland Timbers played the Minnesota Thunder to a 1-1 tie Saturday night at James Griffin Stadium.

Riding a five-game unbeaten streak in league play, the Timbers (7-7-7, 28pts) recaptured sole possession of the sixth and final playoff spot in the USL First Division with the draw.

The match had large implications in the race for the postseason, with Minnesota (5-8-10, 25pts) in need of a win and three points in the standings to stay close to the Timbers, who played the match with a depleted bench that included only two field players and three reserves in total.

The Timbers and Thunder tied each other four times in as many games this season.

Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar, who has collected assists in each of his last four matches and leads the league with nine total, continued to play the role of offensive catalyst for the Timbers, feeding Alvarez in the 52nd minute for Portland’s lone strike of the match. His cross into the box landed near the feet of Alvarez, who dialed in the goal from point-blank range past Minnesota goalkeeper Joe Warren.

Alvarez nearly made it 2-0 in the 67th with two attempts on goal that came up short.

With the Timbers seemingly headed for victory, Kevin Friedland equalized the contest in the 87th minute when Chris Brunt sent a long ball into the box and Friedland headed it into the back of the net to tie the match.

Portland goalkeeper Josh Saunders turned back several attempts from Minnesota in the waning minutes of the match to keep things even. Saunders finished with four saves on the night.

The Thunder created a scoring opportunity in the 26th minute when Matt Schmidt beat several defenders and placed a near-perfect through ball to Jay Alberts, only to see Saunders intercept the attempt.

The Timbers return home to PGE Park to take on the rival Seattle Sounders on Saturday, Aug. 20. Kickoff is 7 p.m. (Pacific).

TIMBERS NOTES: The fifth-annual Oregon Youth Soccer Association Night takes place Aug. 20, when the Timbers take on the Sounders … the match also marks the Timbers’ 30th Anniversary Celebration … discounted tickets for the match are available at the OYSA office for OYSA members … Portland is 12-2-6 over the past three seasons in August.

SCORING SUMMARY: Alvarez, 52’ (Alcaraz-Cuellar); Friedland, 87’ (Brunt).

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY: POR Higgins, YC (63’), Alvarez, YC (65’); MIN Friedland, YC (90’).

LINEUPS: PORTLAND (7-7-7) Saunders GK, Goldthwaite D, Morrison D, Lines D, Marcum D, Higgins M, Miranda M, Alcaraz-Cuellar M, Winters M, Alvarez F (Conway 71’), Antoniuk F; MINNESOTA (5-8-10) Warren GK, Wilson D, Knox D, C. Dombrowski D (Brunt 81’), Juarez M (Tenoff 68’), Lara M (Friedland 62’), Schmidt M, Matteo M, Alberts M, Menyongar F (Paye 74’), Tarley F.