Timbers draw Sunderland before largest crowd in five seasons at PGE Park

- A crowd of 15,376 fans watched the Portland Timbers hold Sunderland AFC of the English Premier League to a scoreless draw Saturday night at PGE Park.

The attendance mark was the largest crowd for the Timbers in five seasons, breaking the record of 13,351, set Aug. 29, 2003, versus El Paso.

All 16 eligible Timbers were used in the exhibition, which was the first against a Premiership opponent since the NASL Timbers lost 1-0 to West Bromwich Albion in 1981.

On tap for the Timbers is a fourth-round U.S. Open Cup match against Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday, Aug. 3 at PGE Park.

In the opening half, Byron Alvarez nearly put the Timbers ahead just eight minutes into the match when he broke free of the Sunderland defense in the box, but his half-volley shot was saved over the bar by goalkeeper Ben Alnwick.

Sunderland got a chance of its own two minutes later when striker Jon Stead, a recent signing from Blackburn Rovers, hit a turnaround shot off the outside netting.

In perhaps the highlight of the game, Portland goalkeeper Josh Saunders kept the sides level with two spectacular saves in the 39th on shots from Stephen Elliott and Daryl Murphy. Saunders blocked the first attempt, but the rebound fell to Murphy, whose effort was kick-saved and later cleared.

Saunders spent the first half in goal and Sam Reynolds came on at halftime to combine for the shutout.

The Timbers’ best chance of the match came in the first half, when Alvarez was taken down in the box and the Timbers were awarded a penalty kick. Alvarez stepped up to the spot, but his attempt sailed over the crossbar and the match remained scoreless.

In the second half, Lee Morrison found himself alone for an uncontested header on goal but his attempt bounced wide.

The Timbers’ next league match is Aug. 5, when Portland plays host to the Minnesota Thunder at PGE Park before a nationally televised audience on the Fox Soccer Channel.

Tickets for the Aug. 3 match against San Jose can be purchased at the PGE Park box office or at area Ticketmaster outlets … Saturday’s pre-match community festival included a mariachi band, a drum line and a group of bagpipers to entertain the crowd on hand … an estimated 300-400 Sunderland fans made the trip to PGE Park for the match.



PORTLAND J. Saunders GK (Reynolds 45’), Thompson D, Marcum D, Morrison D, Lines D, Poltl M (Weis 45’), Winters M (Benedetti 64’), Alcaraz-Cuellar M (Higgins 67’), Miranda M, Antoniuk F, Alvarez F (Afash 45’); SUNDERLAND Alnwick GK, Nosworthy D, Collins D, Caldwell, Robinson M, Lawrence M, Woods M, Stead F, Elliott F, Welsh F.