Alvarez heads in lone goal as Timbers win second in a row

BLAINE, Minn. - Byron Alvarez scored on a header in the 34th minute and the Portland Timbers defeated the Minnesota Thunder at the National Sports Center Saturday night.

The Timbers (3-4-1, 10pts) broke the deadlock in the 34th minute when Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar grabbed a loose ball near midfield. He dribbled the ball up, then crossed it into the Minnesota penalty area. Alvarez got on the end of the ball and his header sailed past Thunder goalkeeper Joe Warren to put the Timbers up 1-0.

Timbers goalkeeper Josh Saunders, the franchise’s career leader in shutouts (18), collected his first shutout of the season.

Portland had a great opportunity to take the lead early in the game, when midfielder Mamba Chisoni put a cross into the Thunder penalty area. Midfielder Luke Kreamalmeyer was waiting at the near post and forward Alejandro Gutierrez was at the far post, but neither was able to get a head on the ball and the Thunder defense was able to clear.

Minnesota (1-4-1, 4pts) had a chance to even the score late in the game when Thunder midfielder Godfrey Tenoff launched a shot from distance. Saunders was only able to parry the ball, and it fell to midfielder Kiki Lara, who launched his shot past the Timbers keeper and into the goal, but Lara was ruled offside and the goal was disallowed.

Up next, the Timbers have a home-and-home weekend series against the Seattle Sounders. Portland opens the series with a 7 p.m. match on Friday, June 2, in Seattle. The Timbers will then host the visiting Sounders on Saturday, June 3, with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m. at PGE Park.

“Tonight’s win was huge. It was our first win on the road this season, and it gives the players the confidence they need, knowing that that they can win games away from home. Everybody came out tonight and played well; I don’t think anyone had a bad game. There was a tremendous team effort tonight.”

“Seattle is going to be a very strong team and we’re expecting them to play very hard against us next weekend, but this win tonight gives us the huge confidence boost we need going into those games next weekend and get the results we need.”

NOTES: Timbers midfielder Alejandro Gutierrez made his first start of the season at forward ... the game was the second of a doubleheader, the first game being the inaugural game of the Minnesota Lightning women’s soccer team … the National Sports Center, in addition to hosting tonight’s game, was also holding its annual NSC Cup, with more than 275 teams of all ages and skill levels participating in a weekend-long tournament … the National Sports Center features 52 soccer fields.

SCORING SUMMARY: POR: Alvarez 34’ (Alcaraz-Cuellar).

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY: POR: Poltl YC (80’); MIN: Dombrowski YC (54’).

LINEUPS: MINNESOTA (1-4-1) J. Warren GK, A. Esteves D, C. Dombrowski D (Kilickan 65’), K. Friedland D, D. Branan D, F. Juarez M, G. Tenoff M, K. Lara M (Gordon 82’), M. Schmidt M (Winkel 71’), A. Paye F (Knox 57’), M. Tarley F.
PORTLAND (3-4-1) J. Saunders GK, J. Goodfellow D (Marcum 85’), S. Thompson D, M. Nsien D, M. Randolph D, L. Morrison M, H. Alcaraz-Cuellar M (Poltl 75’), L. Kreamalmeyer M, M. Chisoni M, B. Alvarez F (Bullen 64’), A. Gutierrez F (McAthy 53’).