VENTURA, Calif. — The Portland Timbers played their first preseason exhibition match of 2011 on Friday night, playing the Ventura County Fusion to a 1-1 draw at VC Sportsplex. Midfielder Darlington Nagbe scored the equalizing goal for the Timbers early in the second half.
Nearing the end of their second week of preseason, the Timbers featured a split squad and fielded different lineups in each half against the Fusion. Nagbe, drafted No. 2 overall in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, scored off of an assist from trialist Jorge Perlaza in the 46th minute.
“It was our first game and we have a lot of positives to take from it and build from,” said Timbers head coach John Spencer. “At this time of the season, it is just about fitness levels. That is what these games are about; you can only do so much in practice. It was a good game and the Fusion battled for 90 minutes as well.”
The Timbers put the Fusion under pressure early with a series of close chances inside the opening 10 minutes of the match. Midfielders Jeremy Hall and Kalif Alhassan both took shots that neared the mark, but it was forward Bright Dike who forced Ventura County goalkeeper Sam Hayden into a diving stop on a shot in the 8th minute. After having a previous shot blocked, Fusion midfielder Edur Vaca gave his side a 1-0 first half-lead in the 17th minute, capitalizing on a counter after the Timbers went down a man due to injury; Dike went down moments earlier along the near sideline. Timbers midfielder Ryan Pore had a chance to equalize in the 23rd minute, but pushed his shot from inside 12 yards just wide of the right stick.
Portland was able to level three minutes into the second half. On a break down the right side, Perlaza served a well-placed cross into the box for Nagbe stationed along the near post. Nagbe was able to get his head to the ball and tucked a shot into the top far corner of the goal. The Timbers defense held steady through a stretch of pressure by Ventura County midway through the second half to keep the draw intact. The Timbers had the better share of scoring chances in the second period, which included a shot from midfielder Peter Lowry from the top of the box late in the contest that was deflected wide.
The preseason exhibition against the Fusion, who compete in the Premier Development League (PDL), came 12 days into the Timbers’ preseason training camp and was the first of two preseason matches scheduled during the team’s camp in Ventura. The Timbers return to the training field Saturday at Oxnard College.
VCF: Vaca (Flores), 17
POR: Nagbe (Perlaza), 46
POR (First Half):GK Perkins, D Brunner, D Purdy, D Bärengrub, D Cameron, M Alhassan, M Hall, M Marcelin, M Pore, F Dike (Nagbe, 20), F Umony
POR (Second Half): GK Gleeson, D Danso, D Taylor, D Horst, D Kirk (Lynch, 83), M Braun, M Nagbe, M Lowry, M Lopez, F DeMartin, F Perlaza
VCF (starters): GK Hayden, Avesyan, Becerra, I., Flores, Guzman, Hamilton, Jimenez, Riley, Rupert, Stewart
· The Timbers are in the middle of an eight-day preseason camp in Ventura, Calif.
· After going down with an injury, Dike was replaced in the lineup by Nagbe. Dike suffered a right leg injury and will be further evaluated Saturday. Nagbe played a team-high 70 minutes against the Fusion.
· Portland non-roster player Rodrigo Lopez played for the Fusion during the 2009 PDL season, helping the club to the league title that season.
· VC Sportsplex is the home of Ventura College’s soccer, football and track programs.