PORTLAND, Ore. – Jeremy Ebobisse left Portland Timbers fans wanting more just over a year ago when he scored in a Cascadia Derby victory against Vancouver Whitecaps FC, but that rookie-year performance has become an increased talking point this year amid his team’s quest to replace the departed Fanendo Adi.
On Saturday, the second-year forward got his first prolonged chance of the MLS season to do so, taking advantage of an opportunity to start against the Colorado Rapids by producing the game’s first goal, the eventual winning tally in a 2-0 victory at Providence Park.
“A lot of work had gone into the beginning of the season,” Ebobisse said, after the match, “and it’s tough, sometimes, watching from the sidelines. But I knew that my opportunity would come, at some point, and I’m just grateful that I was able to take it.”
The score built on Ebobisse’s initial first-team appearance of the season, in U.S. Open Cup play against the San Joe Earthquakes, an appearance in which he also scored into the south goal at Providence Park. In doubling his Timbers’ 2018 goal total, the U.S. youth international likely elevated his place in Portland’s ongoing forward competition.
“Jeremy has done what we expect of him to be able to start,” Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese explained, when asked about Ebobisse’s selection. “The conditions were ideal for him to succeed, and he didn’t disappoint. All of the trust that we put in him today, he delivered a very good match.”
Though his goal may have been one of the night’s most-noticeable events, Ebobisse was far from the game’s only standout. If anything, Sebastián Blanco, continuing emerge as a focal point in the Timbers’ attack, was the night’s Man of the Match, registering assists on both goals to run his total to eight for the season.
And, after his part in setting up Ebobisse’s goal, Blanco became the center of the forward's celebration.
“It was great, because I gave [Ebobisse] the pass, but it wasn’t necessary …,” Blanco demurred. “He said ‘thank you,’ to me, but I said ‘thank you,’ to him.”
The chance was a result of a standout individual effort from Blanco, having stripped Colorado left back Edgar Castillo of the ball moments before. Then, in the second half, Blanco produced a similar moment, albeit on the opposite flank, out-racing three Rapids defenders to the byline before firing another ball in front of Colorado’s goal.
When Diego Valeri ran onto the cross, he not only provided the Timbers with insurance, but he became only the third player in MLS history to produce four 10-goal, 10-assist seasons.
“When Seba has the ball, the only thing that I’m thinking is get the right timing,” Valeri explained, “because you know that Seba, 90 percent of the time, he beats the player one-v-one. If it’s a good cross and a good movement, it’s really hard for the defender.”
Add in goalkeeper Steve Clark’s cleansheet in his first Portland start and there was no lack of Timbers standouts. With the team’s whistle-to-whistle performance, Savarese’s side may have produced their most-complete match of the season. But in a season where the forward depth chart has become a primary concern, the potential emergence of another attacking option will be the night’s most significant memory. Given a chance to stake a claim, Jeremy Ebobisse seized his moment.