Timbers come up short against Earthquakes

PORTLAND, Ore. - Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes put an impenetrable roadblock in the Timbers’ drive for the U.S. Open Cup, eliminating Portland from contention with a 3-0 win before 10,622 fans Wednesday night PGE Park.

The crowd was the fourth largest in four seasons for the Timbers.

“It was a great crowd,” said San Jose’s Brian Ching, a former Seattle Sounder who assisted on the Earthquakes’ second goal. “I give credit especially to the Timbers fans behind the goal. They’re great fans, some of the best I’ve ever seen.”

A single-elimination tournament, the U.S. Open Cup is a competition to determine the best team in American soccer.

This year’s berth was the first-ever for the Timbers, who defeated the Utah Blitzz on June 30 to advance to Wednesday’s contest.

The Timbers suffered a devastating blow in the 17th minute of play when Portland defender Gavin Wilkinson held onto the jersey of Ching in the box, guaranteeing Wilkinson an automatic red-card ejection, as Portland would play a man down for the remainder of the match.

San Jose’s Ronnie Ekelund took the penalty kick as a result and slid the ball past Timbers goalkeeper Josh Saunders, giving the visiting Earthquakes a 1-0 lead.

“When you go down a man in the 18th minute, it makes it tough for any team to test,” said Portland’s Alan Gordon, who leads the A-League in scoring this season. “But I think we did what we could. (San Jose) is a good team, and they proved it.”

Although Portland managed only two shots in the first half, it dominated time of possession until the ejection. The best chance at a goal came in the third minute, when Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar centered a cross to Gordon, whose header opportunity sailed high over the crossbar.

San Jose went up 2-0 in the 55th when Ching found an open Ramiro Corrales, who drilled the ball into the upper-right corner of the net, above the outstretched arms of Saunders, who logged three saves on the evening while foiling several scoring attempts by the Earthquakes.

Dwayne De Rosario put the match out of reach in the 80th, taking a cross from Brian Mullan that found the back of the net for the 3-0 advantage.

Jake Sagare created a nice opportunity to score in the 67th, beating out a handful of defenders to release a shot that bounced off the hands of Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Conway and over the end line.

The Timbers showed some good ball movement inside the box in the 79th minute, resulting in an open look for Byron Alvarez that fired into the grasp of the San Jose ‘keeper.

U.S. National Team star Landon Donovan started for the Earthquakes before being subbed for at the start of the second half.

He, too, was impressed with the turnout for Wednesday’s match.

“I know Portland is a big soccer town,” he said. “I don’t know many teams, that when you go down two or three nothing, the fans are still cheering like that.”

With the win, the Earthquakes advanced to the quarterfinal round of tournament play against the winner of Los Angeles (MLS) and Minnesota (A-League).

The Timbers return to league play this weekend when they travel north to face rivals Vancouver and Seattle on Friday and Saturday night, respectively. Both matches kick off at 7 p.m.

TIMBERS NOTES: The crowd of 10,622 was the largest of the season for the Timbers … Timbers defender Aaron Heinzen sat out with a sprained left ankle … Saunders was loaned to the Timbers last season from San Jose … the Timbers are now 1-1 in U.S. Open Cup play … the Timbers are 2-1 against MLS teams in four seasons.

SCORING SUMMARY: Ekelund, 18’ (PK); Corrales, 55’ (Ching); De Rosario, 80’ (Mullan).

PENALTY SUMMARY: POR Wilkinson, RC (17’).

LINEUPS: SAN JOSE Conway GK, Cochrane D (Dombrowski 70’), Hart D, Waibel D, Dunivant D, Corrales M (Walker 72’), Mulrooney M, Mullan M, Ekelund M, Donovan F (De Rosario 45’), Ching F (Brown 80’); PORTLAND J. Saunders GK, Morrison D, Wilkinson D, S. Saunders D, Alcaraz-Cuellar D, Winters M (Thompson 60’), Bengard M (Miranda 76’), Gregor M, Sagare M, Gordon F (Antoniuk 84’), Alvarez F.