Timbers U-23s defeat Puget Sound Gunners FC before record crowd of 8,207
PORTLAND, Ore. – Forwards Ben Strong and Kharlton Belmar scored two first-half goals as the Portland Timbers U-23s earned their first win of the season with a 2-0 victory over Puget Sound Gunners FC on Friday afternoon in a Providence Health & Fitness Day match at Providence Park in front of a PDL-record crowd of 8,207.
After back-to-back road matches, the Timbers U-23s (1-1-2, 5pts) returned to the Rose City and dictated the tempo early in the match. Portland earned two corners within four minutes and controlled the majority of possession. Strong made his debut for Portland and scored his first goal in the 11th minute to give the Timbers U-23s an early lead. Defender David Rose curled a corner kick high to the far post as Strong made a late run, sliding in unmarked to put the ball into the net.
Portland’s possession and offensive pressure kept Puget Sound (1-1-1, 4pts) from producing much offense while the home side doubled its lead in the 28th minute. Fluid passing opened space on the right flank for defender Dennis Castillo to float a cross to Belmar in the penalty box. Belmar rose and directed a header into the net for his second goal of the season.
The Timbers U-23s nearly scored a third goal in the 33rd minute as midfielder Sam Gainford was sent through on goal by Strong, but Puget Sound goalkeeper Jason Dodson blocked the shot with an outstretched leg. Midfielder Omar Holness then struck the right post from distance with a shot in the 61st minute. Dodson made several saves for Gunners FC, including another kick-save in the 70th minute on a low shot from Belmar.
Portland outshot Gunners FC 25-6 and forced Dodson to make 10 saves. Timbers U-23s goalkeeper Brendan Moore wasn’t called on to make a save until second-half stoppage time, ending the game with two.
Notes: Strong became the third Timbers U-23 player to score in his debut this season … Portland improved its record against Puget Sound to 7-0-1 all-time and 4-0-0 at home … Portland has outscored Puget Sound 10-1 in all competitions going back to the 2009 season … Castillo and Rose both tallied their first assists of the season … Moore recorded his first shutout and first win of the season … Portland set season highs in shots (25) and corners (9).