ST. PAUL, MN – Forward Jaime Ambriz came on as a second-half substitute and scored his first goal of the season in the 87th minute to help Portland earn a 2-2 draw with the Minnesota Thunder at James Griffin Stadium on Thursday. With the draw, the Timbers become the first team in the USL First Division to clinch a 2007 playoff berth.
Portland (11-4-8, 41pts) remains in first place and now holds a two-point lead over the Seattle Sounders in second. The draw helped the Timbers secure a spot in the USL First Division playoffs. The Timbers have now recorded a draw in their last four matches.
With the draw, the Thunder (3-8-11, 20pts) have started their August schedule with five consecutive draws, including three against the Timbers.
With Portland trailing 2-1 late in the game, Ambriz made a run down the right wing before crossing the ball into the box to Matt Taylor. Taylor settled the cross at the far post and sent a centering pass back along the six-yard box, which Ambriz ran onto to slot home into an open net. The late goal came as Portland capitalized on a man advantage after Minnesota's Alexander Gotsmanov picked up his second yellow card and was sent off in the 79th minute.
Both Thunder goals came on penalty kicks, the last coming after Portland goalkeeper Josh Wicks collided with Minnesota forward Darren Spicer in the 78th minute at the edge of the area. Wicks guessed correctly on Minnesota's Kevin Friedland's resulting penalty, but Friedland's shot was just under the arms of a diving Wicks inside the left post to give the Thunder their second lead of the match.
The Timbers had several chances to take the lead in the game's closing minutes but Minnesota goalkeeper Nic Platter made seven second-half saves to preserve the draw.
Minnesota opened the scoring in the 11th minute on a penalty kick by Ansu Toure. Portland defender Scot Thompson was called for a foul on Thunder forward Keisuke Ota in the box to set up the go-ahead goal. Ansu patiently waited for Timbers goalkeeper to make his move and then slotted the ball inside the left post.
The Timbers tied the match at 1-1 in the 23rd minute on a goal by forward Taylor. Defender Cameron Knowles sent a long pass up field which was headed into the box by midfielder Lawrence Olum to set up a one-on-one for Taylor. Attacking the left post, Taylor drew out Platter and slipped the ball into the net for his first league goal as a Timber. With the goal, Portland ended a 207-minute scoreless streak, dating back to August 4.
The Timbers host the Charleston Battery in their regular-season home finale on Aug. 23 at PGE Park on Jersey-Off-Our-Back Night. Fans have the opportunity to take home a Timbers player's jersey through a silent auction, with proceeds benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The first 2,000 fans receive a Timbers cap presented by Volkswagen. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Notes: Ambriz's goal was his first as a Timber ... Portland has now advanced to the playoffs in five of the last seven seasons ... Forward Bryan Jordan missed Thursday's match with a one-game, league-imposed suspension for yellow card accumulation ... Olum earned his first professional assist on Taylor's goal in the 23rd minute. He now has one goal and one assist against the Thunder this season.
POR: GK Wicks, Griffin, D Knowles, D J. Thompson, S. Thompson, M Higgins, M Gregor, M Dombrowski (Poltl, 66), M Kreamalmeyer (Hague, 70), F M. Taylor, F Olum (Ambriz, 66)
MIN: GK Platter, D Taylor, D Friedland, D Zenoni, M Juarez, M Farber, M Toure (Gibson, 70), M Gotsmanov, M Bass, F Spicer, F Ota (De La Mora, 83)
MIN: Ansu (PK), 11
POR: Taylor (Olum), 22
MIN: Friedland (PK), 78
POR: Ambriz (Taylor), 87