The Timbers (5-7-4) exhibited an attack that was lacking in Saturday’s 3-0 loss at Colorado and the defense limited the damage from an inevitable San Jose second-half charge. The Earthquakes, with the best record in the MLS, played a patient but not particularly aggressive game, scoring their only goal after a quick restart where Portland seemed to lose focus.
The Timbers are 5-2-2 at raucus Jeld-Wen Field.
Mwanga, a product of Portland’s Jefferson High and Oregon State, scored his first goal of the season off a beautiful cross from Franck Songo’o in the 29th minute. Portland scored again in the 59th minute when San Jose keeper David Bingham bobbled a Futty Danso header, allowing Jack Jewsbury an easy poke into the net.
“You can make the game a lot easier by outworking your opponent,” Portland coach John Spencer said. “We made it a bit easier tonight by going up 2-0.”
It was the third meeting between the two clubs in MLS play. Both matches last season were 1-1 draws. The Timbers were happy to be off the road, where they have been shut out in four consecutive games. Portland’s loss to the Rapids left it within striking distance of Western Conference basement dweller FC Dallas, and led to more grumbling from the influential Timbers Army about Spencer’s tactical approach.
“A lot of people had questions for us after that loss in Colorado,” Jewsbury said. “We wanted to prove to people and to ourselves that we had the fire.”
Tuesday’s match was more reassuring. Despite trailing badly in time of possession (57 percent to 43), the Timbers played with focus and were stout on defense, keeping San Jose captain Chris Wondolowski, who leads the league with 14 goals, from being much of a factor. Portland outshot San Jose 19-16.
The Earthquakes are no strangers to comebacks, having scored 21 goals in the final 30 minutes this season, by far the best in the league. San Jose was fresh off a dynamic 4-3 victory over the L.A. Galaxy in which the Earthquakes scored the last three goals. But San Jose never did manage the same urgency against Portland. Marvin Chavez got to the Timbers with a nice boot into the back of net in the 74th minute when Portland didn’t get back fast enough after Songo’o was carted off with a leg injury.
But even with the benefit of six minutes of stoppage time, the Earthquakes never seriously threatened again and the Timbers earned the upset.
If the Timbers are going to capitalize on the win, it’s going to have to happen away from the supportive Jeld-Wen crowds, where they are winless this season. Spencer joked that owner Merritt Paulson would fly 15,000 local fans to Real Salt Lake for the next game on Saturday.
“We proved we can do it here,” Jewsbury said. “We’ve got to show we can do it on the road.”
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