Given the Timbers’ winless run of matches this May, making the most of one’s opportunities and having it go your way against one of the most celebrated soccer clubs in the world is a pretty good thing. The Timbers pulled off 3-2 upset win tonight against Buenos Aires’ legendary Boca Juniors at PGE Park in front of a rollicking 14,106 happy fans.
More recap and more pics after the jump . . .
It wasn’t like the Timbers were going to have it easy. Boca Juniors is a top quality side with history, experience, and guys like Huga Ibarra starting who is capable of doing things like this. Even though Boca Juniors staff believed this U.S. tour was perhaps the first time in their 105 year history that the team had ever played matches on an artificial surface, their tactical mastery and technical skill was evident from the get-go. They could stop the ball as though they had Velcro on their feet, Fed Ex it cross field on time and on target, and move upfield on a whim. The first half alone garnered them 9 corner kicks.
However, the Timbers made the most of their chances. Given Boca’s dominance in possession, it was clear that Portland would have to make a go of it on a counter attack or off a set piece which they did with aplomb. The first half showcased rookie Portland striker Bright Dike making all kinds of problems for Boca and midfielder Lil’ Alex Nimo—What? So I call him "Lil'" all the time. He is. And he's AWESOME!—was great on the ball. His run down the right side in the 15th minute produced a great cross to Ryan Pore who calmly slotted it home giving the Timbers a 1-0 lead.
That would hold up until early in the 2nd half when Boca’s midfielder Matias Gimenez and forward Nicolas Blandi each scored two minutes apart and put the visitors up 2-1 in the 52nd minute. On the second goal, Timbers defender Stephen Keel tried to clear the skipping ball off the line but it was not to be. He would get a chance to redeem himself later.
In the 71st minute, Rodrigo Lopez came on for the stellar Nimo and had an immediate impact with the pace of the game quickening it for both sides. After a foul on the left flank of the Argentine side, Lopez lined up for a free kick which was headed on sublimely by Keel to tie the game at two apiece. With Boca desperate for a win on U.S. soil during this tour (They lost to L.A. Galaxy 1-0 and were embarrassed by Seattle Sounders 3-0) and the Timbers desperate for a win in the month of May, both sides continued to press furiously until the final whistle. Finally, on the second of two consecutive Portland free kicks just outside the Boca 18-yard box in stoppage time, Lopez again found magic with a curling shot that hit the upper right corner and set the hometown fans into a frenzy.
Even though the game does not count in the standings for Portland, it was clear that an elixir of victory against arguably the most famous soccer club ever to grace PGE Park was a welcome thirst quencher. With a full week before their next league game against the Carolina Railhawks, they’ll have to be hoping that they can keep their formula working.
POR: GK Cronin, D Kirk (Mechak, 83), D Keel, D Joy (Cameron, 45), D Smith (Farber, 63), M McManus (Purdy, 54), M Marcelin (Suzuki , 84), M Nimo (Lopez, 71), M Pore, F Dike, F Keita
BOC: GK Ayala, D Ibarra, D Munos (Gaona Lugo, 45), D Monzon (Aguierre, 80), D Achucarro, M Mendez, M Erbes (Rossi, 51), M Colazo, M Gimenez, F Mouche (Bonilla, 45), F Viatri (Blandi, 45)
POR: Pore (Nimo), 16
BOC: Gimenez (Colazo), 50
BOC: Blandi (Gimenez), 52
POR: Keel (Lopez), 74
POR: Lopez, 90
(Lineup and Scoring Summary via Portland Timbers)