Timbers defeat Boca Juniors on late goal by Lopez

PORTLAND, Ore. – Midfielder Rodrigo Lopez provided a key assist and then scored the game-winning goal as the Portland Timbers defeated Argentina side Boca Juniors 3-2 in an international exhibition match Saturday at PGE Park before 14,106.

Down by a goal, Lopez made an immediate impact upon entering the match as a sub in the second half. He assisted the Timbers’ equalizing goal by defender Stephen Keel in the 74th minute, which leveled the score at 2-2. On a free kick in second-half stoppage time, Lopez then found the go-ahead goal to lift the Timbers to victory.

Keel tallied his first goal of the season, midfielder Ryan Pore scored in his second consecutive game and midfielder Alex Nimo logged an assist to lead the Timbers. Goalkeeper Steve Cronin made five saves as the Timbers backline faced 22 shots from Boca Juniors in the contest.

Midfielder Matias Gimenez and forward Nicolas Blandi each scored two minutes apart in the second half to help Boca Juniors take a 2-1 lead in the 52nd minute. Gimenez also recorded an assist and a team-high four shots, while forward Lucas Viatri attempt three shots of his own for Boca Juniors, which ended its United States tour with its third straight loss.

One of the most successful clubs in the world, Boca Juniors visited the Rose City as part of a three-stop tour along the West Coast. Before Saturday’s match, the 23-time Argentina first division champions played against Major League Soccer clubs the Los Angeles Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC.

The Timbers took the lead in the 16th minute on Pore’s eighth goal of the season. From midfield, Nimo played the ball down the right side and spotted forward Mandjou Keita and Pore on a run into the box. Nimo’s cross connected with Pore, who settled the ball and then ripped a shot inside the left post past Boca Juniors goalkeeper Josue Ayala.  

Entering the exhibition against the Timbers, Boca Juniors was still looking for its first goal of the tour, and put the Portland defense under pressure throughout the game. In the first half, the three-time FIFA Club World Cup-winners attempted 14 shots and earned nine corner kicks.

A foul by Timbers defender Ross Smith set up a dangerous free kick attempt for Boca Juniors in the 11th minute from just outside the box. Midfielder Jesus Mendez, a member of Argentina’s National Team, blasted a shot that sailed just over the crossbar.

The pressure by Boca Juniors produced results early in the second half, as the visitors scored twice within a two-minute window to grab the lead.

Boca Juniors’ first goal of the tour came courtesy of Gimenez in the 50th minute. Midfielder Carlos Nicolas Colazo played a perfectly-placed through ball from the left side into the box for Gimenez 15 yards out from goal. With a right-footed shot, Gimenez slotted a low drive past the diving effort of Cronin and inside the far post to level the score at 1-1.

In the 52nd minute, Gimenez set up another quick strike by Boca Juniors. From the right side, the ball was played into the box and found Gimenez on the back side. He headed the ball back towards the center of the box, and Cronin left his line to play the ball. Blandi was the first to the ball and hit a shot on frame. Keel attempted to clear the shot off the line but was unsuccessful, and Boca Juniors claimed its first lead while on tour.

Cronin turned in a key save in the 67th minute to keep the Timbers within reach. He denied a hard-hit shot by Blandi with a diving save to knock a shot on frame wide of the mark.

Portland pulled level at 2-2 in the 74th minute on header by Keel. Lined up 25 yards out from the left side, Lopez delivered the ball into the center of the box. From the penalty spot, Keel fought off his marker and drove a shot into the back of the net for his second professional goal and second as a member of the Timbers.

With the equalizer, the Timbers gained some life late in the match, and a foul on Keita just outside the box led to the game-winning play. Following the foul, the Timbers put their initial free kick attempt off Boca Juniors’ four-man wall, but a foul on that play gave Portland a second chance. Lopez stepped up to take the kick and drilled a shot from the left side into the top right corner of the goal, just beyond the reach of Ayala to seal the win.

The Timbers return to league play on Sunday, June 6, at PGE Park as they play host to the Carolina RailHawks. Tickets start at $12 in advance and are available at the PGE Park box office, area Ticketmaster locations, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at (800) 745-3000.

Notes: Smith made his first appearance with the club since a March 11 pre-season match against Seattle Sounders FC; he missed the team’s first eight league matches due to injury … The 14,106 on hand was the second-largest home crowd for the Timbers in 2010 … Guest player Jerome Mechak entered the match for Portland as a sub in the second half.  

Lineups:
POR: GK Cronin, D Kirk (Mechak, 83), D Keel, D Joy (Cameron, 45), D Smith (Farber, 63), M McManus (Purdy, 54), M Marcelin (Suzuki , 84), M Nimo (Lopez, 71), M Pore, F Dike, F Keita

BOC: GK Ayala, D Ibarra, D Munos (Gaona Lugo, 45), D Monzon (Aguierre, 80), D Achucarro, M Mendez, M Erbes (Rossi, 51), M Colazo, M Gimenez, F Mouche (Bonilla, 45), F Viatri (Blandi, 45)

Scoring Summary:
POR: Pore (Nimo), 16
BOC: Gimenez (Colazo), 50
BOC: Blandi (Gimenez), 52
POR: Keel (Lopez), 74
POR: Lopez, 90

Timbers Player Ratings (as submitted by members of the Portland media; on a scale of 1-10):
GK – Steve Cronin – 6.5, D – Quavas Kirk – 7, D – Stephen Keel – 7, D – Ian Joy – 6.5, D – Ross Smith – 7, M – Tony McManus – 6, M – James Marcelin – 6.5, M – Alex Nimo – 8, M – Ryan Pore – 7, F – Mandjou Keita – 7.5, F – Bright Dike – 8

D – Jerome Mechak – 7, D – Steve Purdy – 7, D – Josh Cameron – 7.5, M – Brian Farber – 7, M – Rodrigo Lopez – 8.5, F – Takayuki Suzuki – 7