SAN SALVADOR – After fighting back to even the score late in the second half at 1-1 with a goal against C.D. Dragón in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League game, Portland Timbers forward Fanendo Adi talked to teammate Darlington Nagbe moments before the midfielder lined up a free kick opportunity some 20 yards out from goal in the 90th minute.
“I told him to lift up the ball for me,” said Adi. “But he told me, ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to take it.’”
And take it he did. As the clock ticked into stoppage time, Nagbe unleashed a thunderbolt of a shot that curled up and over the Dragón wall before finding the upper 90, giving the Timbers a clutch 2-1 win on the road in San Salvador.
The goal was a timely one. Should the Timbers have ended the match in a draw, they would have headed into their final Group B game against Deportivo Saprissa at Providence Park in October having to rely on goal differential scenarios to make it through to the knockout rounds. But the win in El Salvador means that a win back in Portland will see them advance.
Though the ball was well struck and looked destined for the back of the net the moment Nagbe hit it, he was a bit uncertain at its outcome.
“At first, I wasn’t too sure. The wall was pretty big,” he said. “I was lucky enough to hit it right and get the game winner. It felt great.”
The match marked the second time the Timbers fought back to win against Dragón having won in August by the same scoreline. Timbers head coach Caleb Porter believes his team’s ability to pull out the victory in the historic Estadio Cuzcatlán showed true character.
"For our guys to have the composure, down a goal knowing that we were out of the competition unless we scored… and not only score to level, but score to win to get the full three points shows the maturity of a champion,” he said.
Moreover, this win on the road—be it in CCL play—is something the team aims to build on with three games left in the MLS regular-season and the 2016 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs looming. Porter didn’t understate its importance in its ability to provide a spark for the stretch run beginning this Saturday on the road versus the Colorado Rapids.
“This is a big win,” said Porter.
With all that in mind, Nagbe’s goal celebration, which included a sprint straight to the squad bench to share the moment with his teammates, was a team-oriented one.
“I just wanted to celebrate with everyone, the team,” said Nagbe. “The guys on the bench, the guys on the field because it’s all of us.”
And while Nagbe was characteristically humble about his goal, Adi was quick to recognize the significance of his teammate’s golazo.
“[Nagbe] has done that before for us,” he said. “Players step up and today it was massive for us and he stepped up and did the job.”