CARY, N.C. – Goalkeeper Steve Cronin earned his fourth shutout of the season and midfielder Alex Nimo took a game-high three shots as the Portland Timbers extended their unbeaten streak to nine matches with a 0-0 draw against the Carolina RailHawks Thursday at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Facing their second road match in three days, the Timbers (5-1-4, 19pts) out-shot the RailHawks 10-6. Portland held a one-man advantage for the final 40 minutes of the match, following the send off of Carolina forward John Cunliffe in the second half.
Led by defenders David Hayes and Mamadou Danso, the Timbers backline held Carolina to just three shots in each half to aid in the teams’ third consecutive shutout in league play and sixth overall on the season.
Forward Sallieu Bundu and midfielder Daniel Paladini each recorded two shots to lead the RailHawks (7-2-2, 23pts), who held off the Timbers attack to earn a point in the standings and join the Charleston Battery at the top of the USL First Division table with 23 points.
In the middle of stretch of three games in five days, the Timbers gained control of the match early and doubled the RailHawks in shots 6-3 in the opening half.
Portland nearly struck in the early stages of the match on a cross by Hayes deep down the left side. With forwards Mandjou Keita and Takayuki Suzuki making runs through the box, Hayes delivered a ball to the back post. Suzuki was able to get a touch on the ball with a sliding effort but was unable to direct the ball inside the post and his shot went wide.
In the 33rd minute, Carolina found its best chance of the first half against the run of play. A restart near the midfield line found Bundu streaking down the left side of the box. With the edge on his defender, he one-timed a shot at the near post from a tight angle, but Cronin was in position to turn Bundu’s shot away.
Late in the first half, Portland earned a thrown in from the right side in its offensive third. On the throw, defender Scot Thompson set up Nimo for an open look from the top of the box. With time, Nimo bounced a low shot through the box that missed wide of the frame and the two sides entered the break locked at 0-0.
The Timbers gained a one-man advantage early in the second half, following a hard, high tackle by Cunliffe on Danso on a fifty-fifty ball in the 50th minute.
With the extra man, Portland continued to apply pressure. In the 53rd minute, Suzuki played a through ball for midfielder Brian Farber in the box that forced Carolina goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell to leave his line to challenge the play. Moments later, midfielder Johan Claesson blasted a shot from distance that just missed just wide of the frame.
A handball by the RailHawks set up another close chance for the Timbers near the 62nd minute. Hayes lined up for a 25 yard free kick and curled a shot over Carolina’s six-man wall inside the box that looked destined for the back of the net, but his attempt missed just wide of right post.
Midway through the second half, Farber and sub George Josten nearly linked up for a dangerous chance inside the box for the Timbers. From 30 yards out, Farber, with time and space, sent a through ball into the box for Josten making a run at the left post. Patterson-Sewell left his line to contest the play and caught up to Farber’s pass before Josten could get a touch.
In the 79th minute, the Timbers escaped a close call off of a free kick by the RailHawks. A foul committed by Danso set up long free kick by Carolina into the box that caught Cronin leaning towards the left post. The ball hit the ground near the penalty spot and bounced over a group of players and headed towards an open right side of the net. Cronin raced back across his line, but the ball also just cleared the cross bar, keeping the short-sided RailHawks off the board.
As the match drew near, the Timbers had another chance from Suzuki miss wide. Midfielder Keith Savage intercepted a pass at midfield and found Suzuki working up field. From just outside the box, Suzuki unloaded a left-footed shot that flew wide of the left post in the 86th minute.
With the draw, the Timbers captured the regular-season series against the RailHawks and earned their first point in Carolina since the 2007 season.
Portland finishes a two-game road trip to the Southeast on Saturday, facing the first-place Charleston Battery at 4:30 p.m. (Pacific). A live broadcast of Saturday’s match will air on 95.5 The Game as well as online at www.portlandtimbers.com. A live video webcast will also be available through USL Live – now a free service at www.usllive.com.
Notes: The Timbers finished the 2009 regular-season series against the RailHawks with a record of 1-0-2 and did not allow a goal in those three matches … The Timbers played without leading scorer Ryan Pore and midfielder Tony McManus Thursday due to injury … Suzuki made his third start of the season Thursday in Carolina … Midfielder Tom Poltl recorded his first league appearance this season, entering the match as a sub in the 88th minute.
POR: GK Cronin, D Thompson, D Knowles, D Danso (Keel, 80), D Hayes, M Savage, M Claesson (Poltl, 88), M Nimo (Josten, 69), F Farber (McLaughlin, 78), F Keita, F Suzuki
CAR: GK Patterson-Sewell, D Tolleson, D McKenney, D Schulte, D Gilkerson, M Low (Gardner, 84), M Kreamalmeyer (Kabwe, 79), M Plotkin (Paladini, 68), M Lowery, F Bundu (Glinton, 89), F Cunliffe