Timbers fall to Atlanta United FC

The Portland Timbers made their return to the Georgia capital after a four year hiatus, facing an undefeated Atlanta United FC in Matchday 4 of MLS action.


Stepping into Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Portland's sole focus would be to collect points from a matchup with the number one seed in the Eastern conference.

Head coach Giovanni Savarese again set the boys in green and gold in a 5-3-2 formation to kick things off in Atlanta, much like against St. Louis last Saturday. A lineup with only two changes from the previous match, it marked the season debut of newly-extended goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic, and the return of forward Jaroslaw Niezgoda to the starting selection.


Shortly after the initial whistle, the Timbers would put Atlanta on alert. Just two minutes in, Eryk Williamson nailed a right-footed banger from outside the box that was very much out of Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan's left reach. With an assist against St. Louis, Eryk was poised to tally his first goal of the season (and sure-fire Goal of the Week candidate) before referee Ted Unkel referenced a VAR check. Following the revision, Unkel noted Niezgoda in an obstructing offside position and waived the score.

What was a shot of energy for Portland quickly turned into fuel for the hosts. After the Timbers made an offensive push in the 25th minute, Atlanta cleared a ball crossed into their box and went on the quick counter. Thiago Almada and Caleb Wiley ran at Claudio Bravo and Juan David Mosquera, who could not detain the attacking duo. With a quick slant left, Almada left Wiley 1-v-1 with Ivacic, who stepped off his line but could not avoid Wiley's opener to his bottom left.

Down 1-nil, Portland stayed strong following the opener. Notably, the returning Aljaz Ivacic would make key saves to hold the score and remained solid for the rest of the half. However, in the final minute of first-half stoppage time, Thiago Almada would sink a direct free-kick into Ivacic's left upper-90, unreachable for the flying Slovene. The hosts took a 2-0 lead into the locker room.


Second half began with no changes for either side, Atlanta looking to control the lead, and Portland searching to climb out of the first half hole. In the 58th minute, Atlanta did their part, scoring their third via a header from Georgios Giakoumakis. In the 74th, Atlanta would again find the back of the net, via Luiz Araujo to go up 4-0.

Portland was able to keep their active MLS scoring streak alive in the 83rd minute. Late second-half substitute Tega Ikoba netted his first official goal in MLS with a well placed header off a Diego Gutierrez cross. As the ball came across the box, Brad Guzan went right and Ikoba's placement went to Guzan's left, leaving him unable to secure a clean sheet.

Homegrown signing Ikoba, 19, becomes the youngest goal-scorer in club history. The goal also means Portland has now gone 24 straight matches on the scoresheet, with 37 balls across the line.

The bittersweet moment would not last for long. Three minutes later Thiago Almada slotted his second of the night past Ivacic to reclaim momentum and put the hosts up 5-1, a score that would remain until the final whistle.

Notably: Playing the entire 90 minutes, Timbers captain Diego Chara officially logged 30,000+ minutes for PTFC. He becomes the first field player in MLS history to reach this milestone with one single club, truly a Timbers legend.

Portland will return home to prepare for a Western conference meeting with the LA Galaxy next Saturday March 25th at Providence Park. Kick-off is set for 1:30pm, and gives the Timbers the opportunity to cut their current three-match losing streak.