Timbers keep momentum with 2-1 victory

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers defeated the Calgary Mustangs 2-1 on goals by Byron Alvarez and Alex Bengard before 3,519 fans Thursday night at PGE Park.

The victory put the Timbers at 2-0 for the first time in four seasons as a franchise and vaulted them into first place in the Western Conference.

Portland (2-0-0, 6pts) now holds a 9-1-1 advantage over Calgary (0-2-1, 1pt) over the last three seasons.

The win improved the Timbers’ chances of gaining a berth in the U.S. Open Cup heading into Saturday’s second qualifier with the Seattle Sounders at Seahawks Stadium, as 8 of the 10 U.S. sides in the league will advance to the tournament.

With the match deadlocked at one goal apiece in the opening minutes of the second half, Bengard took a pass from Scott Benedetti from 10 yards out and capitalized, knocking in the eventual game-winner in the 49th minute.

Alvarez scored his second goal in as many games in the 25th minute, taking a perfect cross from Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar and heading it into the back of the net.

It was the second time this season the two have connected for a goal.

The Timbers dominated the first half of play, out-shooting the Mustangs by a 6-2 margin, only to see Conrad Smith slip by Portland goalkeeper Josh Saunders to equalize in the 41st minute.

The goal was Calgary’s first in three games this season.

Portland had several good opportunities to score in the opening half, beginning in the fourth minute when Alan Gordon got off a clear shot, but narrowly missed the net off the top of the crossbar.

Bengard was thwarted twice in his efforts to put the Timbers on the board – in the 18th on a diving save by Calgary goalkeeper Lutz Pfannenstiel and in the 33rd, when he missed wide right.

Calgary had a decent chance to tie things up in the 67th, but Saunders made a horizontal save on a shot by Mesut Mert. The Mustangs had another chance in the waning minutes, but the Timbers were able to clear without incidence.

The Timbers’ greatest scoring opportunities of the second half came from Alvarez, who missed wide left in the 76th and was intercepted on a run by the Calgary ‘keeper in the 82nd.

The Timbers held the advantage on corner kicks in the match, 5-1.

SCORING SUMMARY: Alvarez, 25th (Alcaraz-Cuellar); Smith, 41st (UA); Bengard, 49th (Benedetti).

PENALTY SUMMARY: CAL Brusselers, YC (50th), Sestito, YC (55th), Gillespie, YC (69th); POR S. Saunders, YC (24th), Wilkinson, YC (89th).

LINEUPS: CALGARY (0-2-1) Pfannenstiel GK, Gillespie D, Sestito D, Janssens D, Castrillon D (Frazao 59th), Brusselers M, Jesic M (Zuniga 59th), Mert M, Kooy M, Smith F, Savic F; PORTLAND (2-0-0) J. Saunders GK, Morrison D, Wilkinson D, Heinzen D, Benedetti M, Bengard M, Alcaraz-Cuellar M, S. Saunders M, Sagare M, Gordon F, Alvarez F.