PORTLAND, Ore. – Shaun Higgins gave the Portland Timbers an early lead, but the Charleston Battery capitalized on a one-man advantage to pull off a come-from-behind 2-1 victory with two, second-half goals in front of a season-high crowd of 13,050 at PGE Park on Thursday.
Higgins matched a career high with his second goal of the season and the Timbers defense held the Battery to just eight shots on the night despite playing a man down for over 60 minutes following the ejection of defender Cameron Dunn. Two Charleston goals in the final 17 minutes of the match handed a short-sided Portland squad its third straight loss. The Timbers (7-12-10, 31pts) remain in ninth place but are still in the playoff hunt and will need help from other teams down the stretch to clinch a postseason berth.
With the fourth-highest attendance at PGE Park since 2001, the Timbers added to their new modern-franchise record for regular-season attendance. Through 15 regular-season home matches at PGE Park in 2008, the Timbers drew a total of 128,509 fans.
Down by a goal at the break, midfielder Lazo Alavanja and late-match substitute Aaron King each scored their sixth goal of the season during the second half to help Charleston (11-10-7, 40pts) pull off the win and secure their postseason future. The Battery handed the Timbers just their second loss in regular-season home finales since the 2001 season.
The Timbers gained an early advantage when Higgins found the back of the net in the 14th minute. Forward Chris Bagley played the ball down the right touch line and sent in a low cross from outside the box to Higgins slicing his way up the middle. On his first touch, Higgins poked the ball inside the top corner of the goal from 10 yards out for his second strike of the season.
With their playoff chances on the line entering the match, the Timbers were faced with further adversity when in the 39th minute Dunn was shown a red card from referee Yader Reyes. Dunn was sent off following a scrum in the box on a Charleston free kick in which Battery midfielder Ian Fuller was knocked to the turf. Portland played the final 61 minutes of the match with 10 men.
Portland’s defense held the Battery to just two shots in the first half, and used their aggressive defensive play to help generate quick chances on offense. One of those chances came in the 34th minute as forward Takayuki Suzuki served a long ball into the box for Bagley 15 yards out on the right post. Bagley zipped a header back towards the left post, but Charleston goalkeeper Dusty Hudock just got his fingertips on the ball to knock it over the crossbar and out of play. Portland out-shot the Battery 6-2 in the first half.
A short-sided Timbers squad continued to press the Battery in the second half, and despite being a man short, continued to assemble quality scoring chances to out-shoot their opponents 7-6 over the final 45 minutes of the match.
Entering the match in the second half, midfielder Lawrence Olum missed a chance to add to Portland’s lead early in the second period. Suzuki played a ball into the box from 30 yards out for Olum just above the six-yard box. Olum leaped over his defender to get to the ball but bounced his header just wide of the left post.
Hudock made a key save in the 59th minute on a shot from close range to keep the Timbers from extending their lead. Near the left post with his back to goal, midfielder Chris Brown looped a pass over his shoulder to Miguel Guante weaving his way through the box. Guante chested down the pass and pulled the trigger on a shot from eight yards out, but his shot was right at Hudock in position to deny the attempt.
Charleston was held to six shots in the second half, but capitalized on its best scoring chance in the 74th minute to find the equalizer. Midfielder Stephen Armstrong played the ball across the top of the box to Alavanja with space 24 yards out from goal. Patiently, Alavanja stepped up and blistered a shot inside the top right corner of the frame for his sixth goal of the season. Alavanja also delivered the equalizer in the Battery’s 1-1 draw in Portland on Aug. 9.
The two sides traded close calls in the final minutes of the match. Brown connected on a header from inside the box that was deflected wide by a Battery defender and defender Justin Thompson got on the end of a Brown free kick in the 88th minute, but his attempt was stopped by Hudock on the goal line. But it was Charleston that was able to put its chance away in the 89th minute.
King provided the game-winner for the Battery with a hard-fought goal from inside the box. He received a well-place ball over the top, out-worked his defender and earned a one-on-one with Portland goalkeeper Chase Harrison. As Harrison left his line, King slotted home a shot from six yards out for his sixth strike of the season.
The Timbers conclude their regular-season schedule on Sept. 20 on the road against the Carolina RailHawks at 4:30 p.m. (Pacific). Portland will be without Suzuki when it visits Carolina due to a one-game, league-imposed suspension for yellow-card accumulation. Dunn will also be unavailable due to his ejection Thursday. A live broadcast of the Timbers’ match against the RailHawks will be available through USL Live at www.usllive.com.
Portland needs both the Atlanta Silverbacks and Minnesota Thunder to earn no more than one point from their matches this week to remain alive in the race for the final playoff spots.
Notes: The Timbers’ annual Jersey-Off-Our-Back Night silent auction on Thursday raised over $2,500 for the Portland Beavers & Portland Timbers Community Fund. The Rose City red jerseys from Suzuki, Brown and Justin Thompson received the highest bids … Suzuki was issued his third yellow card in the last three games in the 26th minute … Portland is now 6-2-0 in regular-season home finales since joining the USL First Division in 2001.
POR: GK Harrison, D S. Thompson, D J. Thompson, D Knowles, D Dunn, M Higgins, M Poltl (Griffin, 82), M Dombrowski (Guante, 45), M Brown, F Bagley (Olum, 45), F Suzuki (Walker, 63)
CHA: GK Hudock, D Akwari, D Nylen (Spicer, 62), D Reda, D Wilson, M Williams, M Fuller (Velten, 87), M Armstrong, M Cianciarulo (King, 65), F Alavanja, F Patterson
POR: Higgins (Bagley), 14
CHA: Alavanja (Armstrong), 73
CHA: King, 89