Timbers U-23s stay unbeaten with win over Victoria

PORTLAND, Ore. – Forwards Brent Richards and Ricky Abrego each scored a goal in the second half as the Portland Timbers U-23s defeated the Victoria Highlanders 4-0 on Sunday at PGE Park. The victory extends the Timbers U-23s’ winning streak to five games.

In a matchup between two unbeaten teams in the Northwest Division, the Timbers U-23s recorded all four goals in the second half. After a pair of own goals by the Highlanders, the Timbers U-23s found the back of the net on Richards’ third goal of the season and a late penalty-kick goal by Abrego.

Midfielder Michael Neilsen logged his first assist of the season and goalkeeper Jake Gleeson logged his fourth straight shutout to lead the Timbers U-23s (5-0-0, 15pts). Portland joins the Kitsap Pumas in first place in the Northwest Division with 15 points.

Midfielder Callum Harrison took a team-high five shots for the Highlanders (4-1-0, 12pts). Victoria was dealt its first loss of the season, ending a four-game winning streak.

After a scoreless first half, the match opened up in the second half as the both sides combined for 14 shots. Victoria helped the home side take the lead with two own goals by defender Jamie Cunningham just three minutes apart early in the second period.

In the 46th minute, midfielder Tracy Hasson was fouled 23 yards out from goal along the right side. Midfielder Jordan Crasilneck put the ensuing free kick into the box, and Cunningham stretched for the ball to clear it away, but re-directed it into the back of his own net.

A second own goal by Cunningham gave the Timbers U-23s a 2-0 lead in the 49th minute. Another foul on Hasson set up a free kick for Crasilneck, this time from 35 yards out. Crasilneck’s low drive into the box deflected off of Cunningham on the left post and the ball slid just inside the post for the score.

The Timbers U-23s contributed to their score line in the 68th minute, on a strike by Richards. From the right wing, Neilson played the ball in to Richards at the top of the box. After eluding two defenders, Richards drew Highlanders goalkeeper Trevor Stiles off his line. He chipped a shot over the goalkeeper and inside the far post to give the Timbers U-23s a 3-0 advantage.

Abrego helped the Timbers cap the scoring in the 85th minute. Midfielder Freddie Braun played a through ball up the middle of the park to spring Abrego on a run into the box. One-on-one with Stiles, Abrego slipped the ball around the goalkeeper, but was tripped up inside the penalty area. Stiles was issued a red card for the foul, and Abrego slotted the ball past back-up Elliot Mitrou on his attempt from the spot to seal the victory.

Harrison had a chance to put the Highlanders on the board in the first half. From the left side, the ball was played across the box and Gleeson left his line to challenge the cross. Knocked away from the Timbers U-23s goalkeeper, the ball trickled out to Harrison, who knocked a shot towards an open net. Tracking back, defender Ryan Kawulok was there to clear the attempt off the line.

Stiles made a great save in the 65th minute to deny Portland forward Brian Ramsey. Midfielder Roberto Farfan weaved a cross through the box from the right side to Ramsey on the left post. Sliding back across the goal mouth, Stiles knocked down Ramsey’s shot from the doorstep with a sprawling dive; it was one of three saves in the second half.

The Timbers U-23s play host to the Kitsap Pumas on Saturday, June 5, at Hare Field in Hillsboro, Ore., at 7 p.m. in showdown for first place in the Northwest Division. Tickets will be available for purchase at the door. For ticket information, contact Michael Fogg at mfogg@pgepark.com.

Notes: Neilson, Dugoni and forward Quinton Beasley made their first appearances of the season for the Timbers U-23s … The Timbers U-23s backline has recorded four consecutive shutouts and has not allowed a goal in 381 minutes of play. The last goal conceded by the Timbers U-23s was in the 69th minute of their 3-1 win over the Washington Crossfire on May 15 … The Timbers U-23s are 6-1-0 all-time at PGE Park.

Lineups:
POR: GK Gleeson, D Crasilneck, D Granger, D Dugoni, D Kawulok, M Hasson (Nielsen, 56), M Ogunyemi (Drake, 72), M Braun, M Richards (Abrego, 77), F McLaughlin (Ramsey, 42)(Beasley, 76), F Farfan (Thompson, 63)

VIC: GK Stiles, D Robertson, D Cunningham, D Huges, T., D Wragg, M Kambere (Veenhof, 61), M Harrison, M Dixon (Henry, 32)(Mitrou, 84), M Hughes, J., F Gorman, F Pele (Scott, S., 74)

Scoring Summary:
POR: Own goal (Cunningham), 46
POR: Own goal (Cunningham), 49
POR: Richards (Neilsen), 68
POR: Abrego (penalty kick), 85