Higgins lifts Timbers to 2-1 victory over Minnesota

PORTLAND, Ore. - Midfielder Shaun Higgins scored his first goal since the 2005 season to lead the Portland Timbers to a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Thunder Thursday night at PGE Park. With the win, the Timbers extend their unbeaten regular-season streak at home to 16 matches.

Forward Chris Brown scored his second goal of the season early on to give Portland (2-0-0, 6pts) a 1-0 lead, but Minnesota answered back before the break to even the score. Higgins found the back of the net in the second half to lead Portland to victory. Brown has now scored in each of the Timbers' first two games of the 2008 season.

View highlights from Thursday's match courtesy of USL Live/PlayON!

Thursday's win over the Thunder (0-1-0, 0pts) improves the Timbers' stretch of consecutive regular-season home matches at PGE Park without a loss to 16. The streak began on April 21, 2007 with a 3-1 win over the Puerto Rico Islanders at PGE Park.

Minnesota's equalizing goal in the 41st minute was the first goal allowed by the Timbers in regulation at PGE Park since a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on July 19, 2007 – a span of six home matches including the 2007 postseason.

Portland took a 2-1 lead in the 66th minute on Higgins' first goal of the season. Timbers second-half substitute Miguel Guante won a 50-50 ball at midfield and found midfielder Andrew Gregor running down the right sideline. As he approached the edge of the box, Gregor crossed the ball across the penalty area to Higgins on the far post about six yards out. Higgins was able to redirect the ball inside the far post for his first strike since August 2005.

Brown gave the Timbers an early 1-0 lead with his second goal in as many games in the 9th minute. The ball was played into the box and popped out to midfielder Neil Dombrowski at the top of the area along the right post. He fed Brown, who needed just two touches to work the ball into space before blasting a shot past Minnesota goalkeeper Nic Platter.

Minnesota answered back in the 41st minute on a goal by forward Aaron Paye to even the score at 1-1. Following a string of short passes near the top of the box, midfielder Ricardo Sanchez received a pass along the left edge of the penalty area and slipped a pass behind the Portland backline. Paye, who made a run at the far post, tapped in the equalizer from six yards out.

Brown nearly broke the deadlock in the 55th minute as he gained the advantage on two Thunder defenders to force a one-on-one with Platter. As Platter left his line to challenge the ball, Brown attempted to chip a shot over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net but his shot floated over the crossbar.

Portland forward Takayuki Suzuki, a former member of the Japanese National Team, just missed his first goal of the season in the 36th minute. He collected a pass along the right edge of the penalty area and was able to work the ball into space just inside the box. Suzuki's left-footed strike from 18 yards out curled just wide of the far post.

Timbers goalkeeper Ray Burse made just two saves to record his second victory of the season. Portland out-shot Minnesota, who face the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, 14-3.

The Timbers face Northwest Rival the Seattle Sounders on Saturday at PGE Park for their second match in three days. It's the first of two visits by Seattle (0-0-1, 1pt) to the Rose City in 2008. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

Notes: Dombrowski tallied his first professional assist on Brown's goal in the 9th minute ... Midfielder Miguel Guante and forward Chris Bagley each made their 2008 debut Thursday ... Thursday's match featured the Timbers' first guest mascot, Joey Webber, following the retirement of long-time team icon “Timber” Jim Serrill ... Attendance was 4,921.

GK Burse, D Knowles, D J. Thompson, D S. Thompson, D Griffin, M Higgins, M Dombrowski, M Gregor (Poltl, 84), M Olum (Guante, 63), F Brown, F Suzuki (Bagley, 74)

MIN: GK Platter, D Kallman, D Friedland, D deRoux, D Taylor, M Bass, M Barron, M Sanchez, M Gonzalez (O'Brien, 75), F Paye (Moojen, 69), F Marcina

Scoring Summary:
POR: Brown (Dombrowski), 9
MIN: Paye (Sanchez), 41
POR: Higgins (Gregor), 66