CHARLESTON, SC - The Portland Timbers stretched their USL First Division-record unbeaten streak to 24 games as they played the Charleston Battery to a scoreless draw at Blackbaud Stadium on Friday.
In a matchup featuring two teams bound for the postseason, the Timbers and Battery battled through soggy conditions as a heavy rain soaked the field prior to kickoff, holding scoring chances at a premium.
Goalkeeper Steve Cronin earned his ninth shutout of the season and midfielders Ryan Pore and Brian Farber paced the team with two shots a piece to help the first-place Timbers (14-1-10, 52pts) earn a point on the road and extend its lead in the standings over the Carolina RailHawks in second place.
Strikers Darren Spicer and Randi Patterson combined for four of the Battery’s eight shots on the night. Goalkeeper Keith Wiggans turned in his first shutout of the season as Charleston (12-4-10, 46pts) remains third in the standings with the draw.
The Timbers gained a one-man advantage in the 26th minute, as Charleston midfielder Ian Fuller was shown a straight red after charging at Pore inside the box. Pore was also issued a caution as a result of the play prior to the incident, making contact with a diving Wiggans on a run through the area.
Cronin turned in his first of three saves in the first half in the 14th minute, collecting a header by Patterson near the left post; it was the first chance of the night for either side. Moments later, Pore lifted an open look from the right side of the box high of the target.
With a one-man advantage, things opened up for the Timbers through remainder of the opening period. Forward Mandjou Keita was just caught offside late in the half, and midfielder Alex Nimo had a pair of crosses from the right touch land inside the box.
The Battery assembled a late push during first-half stoppage time, including a header by Patterson from inside the box that was knocked wide by Cronin. The Timbers fought off a pair of corner kick opportunities by the Battery in the final minutes of the half, keeping the stalemate in tact.
As the second half settled in, Farber, who entered the match as a sub in the 56th minute, provided the Timbers’ best opportunity of the night. From the top of the box, Farber cracked a low shot through the box, and at the last second it was deflected by a player less than 10 yards from the goal line and popped up over the crossbar in the 57th minute.
Key defensive plays by the Timbers backline, including timely tackles by Mamadou Danso and Stephen Keel, through the middle stages of the second half kept the short-sided Battery at bay. Portland held the Battery to just three total shots in the second half.
In the 80th minute, Battery sub Tom Heinemann worked his way to an open look at the top of the box. Danso was in position to apply defensive pressure, which forced Heinemann’s shot wide of the left post.
Portland mounted a late charge inside the final 10 minutes of the match. In the 84th minute, forward Jason McLaughlin fought for a header inside the box that missed the mark. Four minutes later, forward Kevin Forrest nearly connected a cross from the left side with Pore 12 yards out from goal.
The Timbers return home to wrap their season series with the Rochester Rhinos on Thursday, Sept. 3, at PGE Park at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $11 and are available through the PGE Park box office, area Ticketmaster outlets, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at (800) 745-3000.
Notes: Recently signed midfielder Rodrigo Lopez made his league debut for the Timbers. He entered as a sub in the 58th minute … Pore’s run of scoring in six consecutive games came to an end Friday … The Timbers finished their season series against Charleston with a record of 1-0-2 and improved their road mark to 5-1-8 in 2009.
POR: GK Cronin, D Thompson, D Keel, D Danso, D Hayes, M Nimo (Forrest, 79), M McManus, M Savage (Lopez, 58), M Suzuki (Farber , 56), F Pore, F Keita (McLaughlin, 76)
CHB: GK Wiggans, D Sanfilippo, D Bobo, D Akwari, D Wilson, M Williams (Bermudez, 89), M Buete, M Fuller, F Yoshitake, F Spicer (Heinneman, 76), F Patterson