Timbers shutout NSC Minnesota 1-0 in road win

BLAINE, Minn. – Midfielder Ryan Pore scored his league-leading 13th goal of the season and goalkeeper Matt Pyzdrowski earned the shutout as the Portland Timbers downed the NSC Minnesota Stars 1-0 at the National Sports Center on Saturday.

After a scoreless first half, the Timbers were able to take the lead on a key play, which turned the match in Portland’s favor. Forward Bright Dike was taken down inside the box to end a clean run up the field midway through the second half. NSC Minnesota goalkeeper Joe Warren was shown a red card for the foul, and Pore delivered on the penalty kick attempt to give the Timbers a 1-0 lead in the 68th minute. With an extra man, Portland held strong defensively to pick up its second consecutive shutout on the road.

Pore scored his second goal in three games, forward Takayuki Suzuki provided a spark off the bench in the second half and Dike took a team-high three shots to help the Timbers (9-7-7, 34pts) to their second straight road victory. Pyzdrowski logged three saves in his first league start for the Timbers, resulting in his first professional shutout.

Forwards Simone Bracalello and Melvin Tarley combined for seven of the Stars’ 10 shots on the night. NSC Minnesota (7-11-7, 28pts) out-shot the Timbers 10-7, but was held scoreless for a second consecutive match.

Dike’s hard-working run up the middle of the park helped the Timbers claim the lead. Portland had cleared a Stars corner kick out to midfield, where Dike stole the ball and charged into open space. He drew Warren off of his line and played the ball around the goalkeeper inside the box. Warren clipped Dike as he went by and the referee wasted little time pointing to the spot and issued Warren a red card.

Against backup goalkeeper Matthew VanOekel, Pore drilled home the eventual game-winning goal into the right side of the goal on the penalty kick in the 68th minute.

Pyzdrowski recorded three saves in the first half to keep Portland level with the Stars, who out-shot the Timbers 6-2 in the opening stanza. Bracalello forced Pyzdrowski into two of his first-half stops, with the first coming in the 24th minute on a well-struck ball from 14 yards out.

The rookie goalkeeper turned in another key save late in the half on a tough shot by Tarley. On a long ball played through, Tarley held off Timbers defender Steve Purdy just long enough to unload a shot from the top left corner of the box. His effort was knocked away by Pyzdrowski in the 43rd minute to deny the Stars’ bid to take the lead.

Portland gained momentum as the match played on, and early in the second half had a chance to take the lead after Pore was fouled 30 yards out along the right side. On the re-start, Suzuki delivered the ball to the back post, where Dike out-jumped his marker and headed a shot just over the crossbar in the 51st minute.

With an extra-man for the final 24 minutes of the contest, the Timbers generated most of their five second-half shots. Suzuki set up Dike for another header in the 75th minute, but his shot from 15 yards out landed in the hands of VanOekel.

Even with 10 men, the Stars showed no signs of caving in. In the 77th minute, a build up down the left side through midfielder Ely Allen led to a shot from the top of the box. Timbers defender Mamadou Danso charged the ball and blocked his second shot of the night from inside the box; he stopped a shot early in the match by Stars defender Scott Lorenz.

Back-to-back shots by Suzuki and Pore in the 85th minute provided the Timbers an opportunity to add to their lead, but VanOekel came through with his two saves of the match. Pore received the ball on side and cracked an open shot from the top of the box. VanOekel punched the ball onto the path of Suzuki, who fired the rebound back on frame. VanOekel made a timely reaction save to hold off the Timbers.

The short-handed Stars mounted one last effort at the equalizer in second-half stoppage time. The ball was played in to sub Warren Ukah with his back to goal. He turned and attempted to get a shot off from 12 yards, but Purdy was there to block the shot.

The Timbers return home to play host to a three-game homestand, starting Thursday, Aug. 26 against the Austin Aztex at PGE Park; kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The Timbers will honor former player and assistant coach Jimmy Conway with a testimonial match prior to kickoff at 5 p.m., featuring a team of former Timbers players.

Notes: With the win, the Timbers take sole possession of fourth place in the USSF Division-2 Pro League table … Portland recorded its first set of back-to-back shutouts since July 3 (vs. Vancouver) and July 10 (vs. Miami FC) … Timbers goalkeeper Steve Cronin had a run of 51 consecutive league starts come to an end ... Of Pore's 13 goals this season, five have come on penalty kick attempts ... Timbers defender Ross Smith left the match in the 30th minute due to injury ... Portland won the season series against the Stars with a record of 2-1-1 in head-to-head matches.

POR: GK Pyzdrowski, D Joy, D Danso, D Smith (Keel, 30), D Purdy, M Marcelin, M Savage (McManus, 59), M Pore, M Nimo (Suzuki, 45), F Dike (Kirk, 89), F Muhamadu (Claesson, 84)

MIN: GK Warren, D Lorenz, D Arango, D Altman, D Friedland (Clements, 45), M Takada (VanOekel, 66), M Gotsmanov (Moura, 35), M Allen, M Wasson, F Tarley (Cvilikas, 71), F Bracalello (Ukah, 78)

Scoring Summary:
POR: Pore (penalty kick), 68