Timbers quiet Thunder, take over first place

PORTLAND, Ore. - Led by a two-goal, five-point performance by Andrew Gregor, the Portland Timbers shut out the Minnesota Thunder 3-0 before 5,243 Thursday evening at PGE Park.

The victory gave the Timbers (14-7-0, 42pts) sole possession of first place in the Western Conference and cut the magic number to five points needed to clinch a playoff berth.

Winners of three straight and five of their last six, the Timbers have defeated the Thunder (10-7-3, 33pts) in both meetings between the clubs this season.

Portland goalkeeper Josh Saunders and the Timbers have not allowed a goal in 280 minutes of play over their last four games.

Gregor spotted the Timbers a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute when he zeroed in a free kick from 30 yards out, bouncing the ball past several defenders and into the left side of the net.

Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar had his cross deflected toward the top of the box to a waiting Gregor, who found his target from 20 yards out and nailed in his second goal of the evening in the 43rd minute.

Gregor factored in the third Portland goal of the evening in the 55th on a breakaway, flicking a short pass to the center of the box, which was one-touched by Byron Alvarez and dialed into the center of the net for a three-goal advantage.

Alan Gordon nearly tacked on another in the 22nd, heading a perfect serve from Gregor that was deflected by Minnesota goalkeeper Joe Warren.

Minnesota’s best chance came in the 40th minute when David Castellanos got free and punched a shot into the outstretched gloves of Saunders, who had nine saves for his sixth shutout of the season.

Minnesota held an 11-4 advantage on corner kicks.

On tap for the Timbers is a two-game, two-day weekend road trip to Edmonton and Calgary, beginning on Saturday afternoon.

TIMBERS NOTES: Thursday was Grateful Dead Night at PGE Park, featuring pre-game and halftime performances by the Freak Mountain Ramblers … defender Shawn Saunders exited the match in the 61st with a strained tendon in his left ankle, but the injury is not considered serious at this point.

SCORING SUMMARY: Gregor, 11’ (UA), Gregor, 43’ (Alcaraz-Cuellar), Alvarez, 55’ (Gregor).

PENALTY SUMMARY: MIN Castellanos, YC (31’); POR Gregor, YC (9’), Gordon, YC (32’).

LINEUPS: MINNESOTA (10-7-3) Warren GK, Branan D, Roberts D, Jaquette D (Brunt 45’), Juarez D (Vorenkamp 63’), Tenoff M, Ferruzzi M, Magee M, Alberts M (Friedland 61’), Menyongar F, Castellanos F (Tarley 72’); PORTLAND (14-7-0) J. Saunders GK, Morrison D, S. Saunders D (Wilkinson 61’), Thompson D, Alcaraz-Cuellar M, Winters M, Bengard M (Miranda 69’), Gregor M, Sagare M, Alvarez F (Afash 80’), Gordon F (Antoniuk 83’).