When Maxi Urruti was jettisoned by Toronto late last season, some saw the acquisition of a player Kevin Payne had brought to Ontario as a boon to the Timbers. Through the first 14 games of his Portland career, however, the 23-year-old Argentine had only scored once, something that made Timbers fans wary of his persisting role as one of Caleb Porter’s number nines. His lack of production looked like part of the reason Fanendo Adi was brought in from FC Copenhagen.
After Saturday’s performance in Harrison, N.J., however, Urruti’s put the Adi acquisition in a different perspective. With the first multi-goal game of his Major League Soccer career, the Argentine helped Portland to its second win of the season, scoring both of his team’s goals in a 2-1 win over the New York Red Bulls.
You can catch highlights of the goals, above, but consider the implications of Portland finding a reliable striker. We’re not talking All Star-level performance. We’re just talking about somebody who can replace Ryan Johnson (who scored nine times in 29 appearances last year). Given the number of chances the Timbers create, it’s reasonable level of production to expect from an average MLS striker. To this point, however, Urruti hadn’t played at the level.
Over the last four games, however, Urruti has four goals, tripling his career production. On Saturday, that surge helped Portland take three points they weren’t otherwise going to get. Out-possessed (53-47) and out-shot in terms of overall tries (15-10) and shots on target (6-3), the Timbers lagged in all the key indicators Porter values. The Red Bulls had two goals called back, while Donovan Ricketts had to come up big on a couple of other chances. Late sub Norberto Paparatto was also called on to save the Timbers late. With some help from Luis Robles and the Red Bulls’s defense, the Timbers claimed a valuable win on the road.
For New York, that makes for a disappointing result, but for a team that’s having trouble finding somebody to pair with Dax McCarty in midfield, there were some pluses in the underlying performance. Against a Portland team that can at times flood the midfield, the Red Bulls were able to hold their own. They generated the game’s better chances. That only thing that separated them from three points was execution at a few key moments.
In theory, the Red Bulls set up as a team Portland should exploit. That didn’t happen. They didn’t get a win, either, but this low-scoring game we love isn’t always the most equitable one. New York didn’t get a win, but they may have out-played the Timbers.