I’m not so sure it’s possible to ask for more from a match and receive it.
With the top of the Western Conference getting tighter and tighter, the two teams certainly played like it mattered.
The game had everything: attackers fired missiles as the goals, goalkeepers launched themselves for world-class saves, dribbling and runs, terrible misses, and a goalazo out of nothing made all the difference.
Darlington Nagbe hit a blast into the top right corner on a 180-degree turn for the goal that gave the conference lead to the Portland Timbers, grabbing all three points at home over FC Dallas.
It wasn’t the only exciting moment though.
Diego Valeri headed off the crossbar. Donovan Ricketts saved a howitzer from Dallas’s Jackson. Raul Fernandez made possibly two of the saves of the season on shots from Diego Chara, and the midfielder missed a gaping opportunity on a third following a breakaway. Michel continued his set-piece prowess with a scathing free kick shot just wide.
It was a gut-check for the Timbers after scoring their goal, with their midfield controlling the action and their goalkeeper pressed into a few clutch saves. Unfortunately, their forwards choked multiple times in front of goal to get a second, but it didn’t come back to hurt them.
The win pushes Portland one point shy of Real Salt Lake and two shy of Dallas in the lead. It appears the top three pull further and further away from the rest of the pack in the conference with each passing week.
The only issue with the match was the shroud from another headbutt in the MLS. Jair Benitez popped Frederic Piquionne in the nose with his forehead, and you can bet your britches he’ll face some discipline. The problem is, the referee did nothing about it. The assistant referee waved his flag furiously after the incident, and the head referee had a chat with him, but nothing came of it.
It’s deja vu all over again for Major League Soccer, but fortunately, this time around, the excitement far outweighed the stain.