Timbers U-23s to play for PDL championship Saturday
Portland will face the Central Conference-champion Thunder Bay Chill in the finals at 4 p.m. at PGE Park live on Fox Soccer Channel.
Early in the second half, the Timbers U-23s received a goal from midfielder Bim Ogunyemi and held onto that lead for much of the period until Reading United’s Levi Houapea leveled the score line in the 74th minute. Four minutes later, Braun dialed in the go-ahead strike from 22 yards out to secure the victory.
Braun scored his second postseason goal, forwards Brian Ramsey and Ricky Abrego were each credited with assists and forward Brent Richards took a team-high three shots to help the No. 1 seed Timbers U-23s extend their undefeated run to 19 games in 2010. The Timbers U-23s have the chance to become the first undefeated champion in the PDL’s 15-year history.
Forward CJ Sapong attempted five shots and recorded an assist, Houapea scored his first goal of the playoffs and goalkeeper Jeremy Vuolo logged four saves in the losing effort for Reading United, who will face the Baton Rouge Capitals in the third-place match on Saturday at 1 p.m. at PGE Park.
A hard-working run by Ramsey down the right side helped the Timbers U-23s unlock the stalemate in the 48th minute. Deep in the right corner, Ramsey shed his marker and played a cross across the goal mouth. After it passed Vuolo, Reading United defender Jon Ports tried to redirect the ball wide and it rolled out to Ogunyemi inside the box. After a quick touch, Ogunyemi drilled a shot into the open left side of the net to put Portland ahead 1-0.
Reading United pulled level in the 78th minute as Houapea converted a shot from inside the box. Sapong helped Reading United maintain possession deep in its offensive end and he found a small seam through the Timbers U-23s defense and threaded a centering pass. Houapea unloaded a low drive into the left side to knot score at 1-1.
Richards had a couple of chances to find the game-winner in a small flurry inside the box in the 73rd minute. But a minute later, Braun capped another build up with a shot from distance.
Abrego, who scored the game-winning goal in the Western Conference finals last weekend, received the ball just outside the right post. He knocked a bouncing pass out to Braun at the top of the box, and the all-league midfielder crushed a low shot from 22 yards out through a crowded box into the back of the net for the go-head tally seal Portland’s trip to the finals.
A fast-paced first half opened with an early chance by Reading United in the fifth minute. Off of a corner kick from the right side, Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson punched the ball out and it deflected up into the air. Midfielder Luke Mulholland bounced a header on target, but it was cleaned off the line by Ramsey to keep things even at 0-0.
A corner kick by Ogunyemi set up the Timbers U-23s’ first scoring opportunity of the night in the 18th minute. He played it short to midfielder Roberto Farfan at the top of the box. Farfan drilled a shot at the top left corner of the goal, and Vuolo was in place to pluck it out of the air.
Richards had a chance to add to the Timbers U-23s’ lead in second-half stoppage time as he broke free on a run from midfield. From the top of the box he blasted a shot on frame that went right to Vuolo as the goalkeeper made one of three second-half saves.
The Timbers U-23s will play for their first PDL championship on Saturday at PGE Park; kickoff is slated for 4 p.m. Tickets start at $10 and will be available at the PGE Park box office, area Ticketmaster locations, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at (800) 745-3000. The PDL finals will also be broadcast live on Sportsradio 95.5 The Game.
Notes: In Game 1 of the PDL semifinals Friday at PGE Park, the Thunder Bay Chill defeated the Baton Rouge Capitals 2-1 (Click here for a match report) ... Earlier in the day, Timbers U-23s head coach Jim Rilatt was awarded the PDL's 2010 Coach of the Year and Richards was honored with the league's MVP and Rookie of the Year awards at the 2010 PDL Awards Ceremony at PGE Park ... Gleeson recorded three saves on the night – all three coming in the first half … Portland has scored six goals in the postseason.
POR: GK Gleeson, D Crasilneck, D Dugoni, D Kawulok, D Granger, M Ogunyemi (Drake, 89), M Farfan (Thompson, 79), M Braun, M Hasson (Evans, 62), F Ramsey (Abrego, 74), F Richards
REA: GK Vuolo, D Hedges, D Wender, D Welch (Reid, 72), D Quinn, M Frimpong, M Houapea, M Mulholland, M Witmer (Detzel, 67), M Ports, F Sapong
POR: Ogunyemi (Ramsey), 48
REA: Houapea (Sapong), 74
POR: Braun (Abrego), 78