Timbers earn shutout in 0-0 draw with MLS Red Bulls

PORTLAND, Ore. - Goalkeeper Steve Cronin recorded four saves to pick up the shutout as the Portland Timbers battled Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls to a 0-0 draw Friday in a preseason exhibition match at the University of Portland’s Clive Charles Soccer Complex.

Cronin logged three of his four saves in the second half, including a pair diving stops in the final minutes to help the Timbers earn their first shutout in preseason play this season. New midfielders Ryan Pore and Johan Claesson helped spark the Timbers offense that kept the Red Bulls on their heels for most of the match.

New York, who played their 2009 MLS season opener Thursday against Seattle Sounders FC in Seattle, Wash., found their legs late in the match forcing Cronin into action, but could not convert their chances. Forward Matthew Mbuta led New York with a pair of shots on goal.

The Timbers played an inspired first half controlling the run of play and limiting the offensive chances for the Red Bulls. Pore instigated two chances early on. In the 12th minute, he skipped a pass around a five-man wall from 19 yards out to defender Stephen Keel on a run at the back post. Keel's touch on the ball was stopped by New York goalkeeper Jon Conway. He also fed a pass to Claesson at the top of the box in the 20th minute, but Claesson's shot aimed at the right post was also stopped on the goal line.

One of the Red Bulls four shots in the first half was a potentially dangerous chance inside the box, but Cronin used a sliding effort to smother the ball before veteran forward John Wolyniec could pull the trigger on his shot.

Timbers forward Takayuki Suzuki had one final attempt before the break, connecting on a cross from trialist defender Takuro Nishimura from the left flank. Suzuki's header at the near post sailed over the cross bar.

Portland played most of the second half in their offensive half of the field. Creating multiple chances, the Timbers took four of their eight shots on the night throughout the final period and had eight plays called offside.

The Timbers thought they had caught a break early in the second period when midfielder Tony McManus was knocked down in the box. Midfielder Keith Savage set up a crafty run for McManus inside the box in the 47th minute. Gaining the advantage on his defender, McManus was knocked down from behind six yards out from goal, but the referee allowed play to continue.

Late in the match, the Red Bulls found an offensive rhythm and threatened to break the deadlock. Cronin made two diving saves near the goal line on shots from close distance to keep the Timbers shutout intact.

The Timbers face the University of Portland Pilots in their next preseason exhibition March 27 at the Clive Charles Soccer Complex at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for youth 18 years of age and younger and can be purchased through the UP box office, area Ticketmaster outlets, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at 1 (800) 745-3000.

Notes: Earlier in the day, MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Timbers owner Merritt Paulson announced that Portland will be the league’s 18th team and will join MLS in 2011 … Friday’s attendance was 2,235 … Nishimura was the only trialist to see time with the Timbers against the Red Bulls.

Lineups:
POR: GK Cronin, D Thompson, D Keel, D Knowles, D Nishimura (Dunn, 72), M Savage, M McManus, M Claesson (Nimo, 61), M Pore, F Jallow (Josten, 45), F Suzuki (McLaughlin, 45)

NY: GK Conway (Dufty, 63), D Borman, D Boyens, D Johnson, D Hall (Stammler, 45), M Sassano, M Smith, M Zimmerman, M Mbuta, F Wolyniec, F Oduro