PORTLAND, Ore. – In a match awash with playoff implications, the Portland Timbers overtook Chivas USA for sixth place in the Western Conference standings Wednesday with a 1-0 victory over the Goats at JELD-WEN Field.
A set-piece goal from defender Eric Brunner in the 44th minute was all the Timbers needed for their second consecutive home victory as the expansion side keep up their late push for a wild card berth.
Portland continued their inspired play after Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Cascadia rival Vancouver, dominating first-half possession and keeping Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy on his toes.
Kennedy pulled off a series of spectacular saves to keep Chivas in the game. Timbers defender Mike Chabala and midfielder Kalif Alhassan sent in cross after cross from the wings early in the match as Portland out-shot Chivas 10-4 in the first half, including four on goal.
They finally broke through in the 44th minute.
Brunner rose above Chivas defender Heath Pearce to meet a Chabala corner kick perfectly at the near side of the net, driving his header past Kennedy to the far post. It was Brunner’s second goal of the year, and would prove to be his second game-winner.
The goal set up a flurry of action from both teams to end the first half.
In stoppage time, a free kick by Chivas midfielder Simon Elliott – one of two first-half substitutes Goats coach Robin Fraser was forced to make because of injury - was tipped just over the crossbar by Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
Then on a Portland counter, Sal Zizzo got an open look at the goal but was thwarted by Kennedy.
Chivas fought through their weary legs to put the Timbers under a bit more pressure in the second half. They attacked primarily down the left flank, but a series of crosses from fullback Ante Jazic were cleared by the stout Portland defense. And when Nick LaBrocca or Alejandro Moreno did get loose in the box, their attempts were charged down by Brunner or David Horst.
But the Rojiblancos still almost nicked the point in second-half stoppage time. Midfielder Laurent Courtois made the hearts of Timbers fans jump when he got onto the end of a long cross in the box, but he pushed his volley wide of Perkins’ post and the Timbers hung on for the win.
Portland out-shot Chivas - playing without newly acquired forward Juan Pablo Angel, who didn’t travel with the team - 20-12 for the game.
With the three points, the Timbers leapfrog D.C. United as well as Chivas, and are tied for the fourth and final wild card position with the New York Red Bulls – though New York still hold the advantage based on goal differential.
United have two games in hand on all three teams, and as fate would have it, the Timbers (9-12-5, 32 points) will play at DC on Saturday.
Chivas, meanwhile, end their five-game road trip on a disappointing note, but still find themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt heading into the home stretch. The Goats (7-9-10, 31 points) return home to face Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
POR -- Eric Brunner 2 (Mike Chabala 1) 44
CHV -- Paulo Nagamura (caution; Foul) 31
CHV -- Mariano Trujillo (caution; Foul) 43
POR -- Diego Chara (caution; Foul) 47
CHV -- Ante Jazic (caution; Foul) 86
Portland Timbers -- Troy Perkins; Mike Chabala, Eric Brunner, David Horst, Lovel Palmer; Sal Zizzo (Darlington Nagbe, 80), Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, Kalif Alhassan (Rodney Wallace 84); Kenny Cooper (Eric Alexander 71), Jorge Perlaza
Substitutes Not Used -- James Marcelin, Adin Brown, Bright Dike, Steve Purdy
Chivas USA -- Dan Kennedy; Michael Lahoud (Mariano Trujillo 11), Heath Pearce, Michael Umana, Ante Jazic; Laurent Courtois, Paulo Nagamura (Simon Elliott 38), Ben Zemanski (Justin Braun 60), Nick LaBroccap; Marcos Mondaini, Alejandro Moreno
Substitutes Not Used -- Blair Gavin, Zach Thornton, Jorge Flores, David Junior Lopes
Referee: Edvin Jurisevic