Timbers earn point with draw in Cleveland

Bedford, Ohio – Midfielder Ryan Pore took a game-high four shots and goalkeeper Steve Cronin recorded his first shutout of the season as the Portland Timbers earned a point on the road with a 0-0 draw against the Cleveland City Stars at Middlefield Cheese Stadium Saturday.

Forward Mandjou Keita also logged four shots and midfielder Johan Claesson attempted three of his own, as the Timbers attempted 24 total shots on the night, including 18 in the second half. Cronin picked up the shutout without making a save against the City Stars and recorded the second shutout overall for the Timbers (1-1-2, 5pts) this season.  

The Timbers controlled the run of play throughout the match and put the City Stars’ defense under pressure much of the night. Portland out-shot Cleveland by a margin of 24-4.

Goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap logged 11 saves for the City Stars (1-3-0, 1pt), who earned their first point and shutout of the season in the scoreless draw.

Keita and Pore lead the way for the Timbers in the first half. Keita had the Timbers’ first chance of the night in the 12th minute after he picked off a pass across the back, and then fired a long-range shot on target. But Gilstrap was in position to smother the shot.

In the 31st minute, a long pass up field found Pore around the top left corner of the box. He knocked the ball down to his feet and on his second touch fired a shot from 20 yards out. Pore’s shot was stopped by Gilstrap for one of his three saves in the first half.

Cleveland’s best chance in the opening period came in the 25th minute on an attempt by John Michael Hayden, who was acquired Friday on loan from Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo. Hayden intercepted a pass between Timbers defenders and then set up a shot from the top of the box that sailed over the crossbar.

In the final minutes of the first half, Keita had an open look at the goal, but pushed his shot wide as the two sides entered the break level at 0-0.

Portland continued to push forward in the second half and dictated the pace. The Timbers’ maintained possession of the ball for a majority of the second half, leaving Cleveland with just two chances in the second period.

The play on the wings by the Timbers in the second half set up numerous scoring opportunities; on a cross into the box, forward Jason McLaughlin had a header go wide in the 56th minute. Second-half sub Takayuki Suzuki nearly chased down a through ball from the far side of the box in the 72nd minute, but couldn’t catch up to it for a shot on the doorstep.

Defender David Hayes nearly put the Timbers on the board in the 63rd minute with a free kick from 25 yards out. Hayes aimed a shot at the left post and forced Gilstrap to make a diving save that knocked the ball past the endline. On the ensuring corner kick, both Brian Farber and Keita had a chance to put a way a shot from close range, but Cleveland was able to clear the ball away.

Minutes later, Pore had a shot from inside the box knocked down by the outstretched arm of Gilstrap. The ball danced around the goal line before a Cleveland defender could clear it from danger and keep the stalemate in tact through the 69th minute.

In the 78th minute, Portland midfielder Alex Nimo delivered the best chance of the night for either side as he blistered a long shot from the left side on frame. Finding its way toward the top right corner of the goal, Nimo’s shot was tipped over the crossbar at the last second by Gilstrap.

The Timbers return home to face former midfielder Andrew Gregor and the Rochester Rhinos on Thursday, May 14 at PGE Park at 8 p.m. The Timbers’ match up against the Rhinos will be televised live on Fox Soccer Channel. Tickets start at $11 and are available through the PGE Park box office, area Ticketmaster locations, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at (800) 745-3000.

Notes: Cronin returned to the field after missing the two previous games due to injury … Through the first four games, defender Cameron Knowles is the only player to have played every minute for the Timbers … The team’s 18 shots in the second half ranks among the most shots taken by in a half in modern-franchise history … Nimo and McLaughlin each recorded three shots off the bench … The City Stars are led by former Timbers assistant coach Rod Underwood.

POR: GK Cronin, D Thompson, D Knowles, D Keel, D Hayes, M Farber (Nimo, 74), M McManus (Savage, 85), M Claesson, M Pore, F Keita (Suzuki, 71), F Josten (McLaughlin, 55)

CLE: GK Gilstrap, D Cruickshank, D Roberts, D Ballard, D Stovall, M Carpenter (Gibson, 75), M Kljestan, M Kanu, M Hayden, F Aguilera (Gillespie, 89), F Pierre-Louis (LaCrone, 68)