Mentally, it would have been difficult for the Timbers to rebound had they not win this game. For all the progress that D.C. United’s made this season, they’re still a team that won three games last year. Ben Olsen’s is still a team Portland matchup well against. Fair or not, Portland’s image of United is more the team they beat 2-0 at RFK Stadium last year than the squad that was five games unbeaten.
That’s why Gastón Fernández’s first minute goal was so important at the time, though come the 94th minute, it was essentially forgotten. With Maxi Urruti beating Bill Hamid seconds before the final whistle, Portland finally ended its winless run, its 3-2 win over visiting United marking the team’s first win in six months.
For much of the night, however, this was less 2013 Timbers than the erratic 2014 model that started the night at the bottom of the Western Conference. Though a Cristian mistake allowed Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri to set up Fernández after 34 seconds, Davy Arnaud pulled D.C. United even in the 21st minute, a deflection off Diego Chara sending a speculative shot looping over Donovan Ricketts’ for the visitors’ first equalizer. After Futty Danso’s corner conversion sent Portland into half up one, the defender’s 78th minute own goal looked set to keep the Timbers winless.
Desperation, however, proved the difference in the last minute of injury time, with a second ball in from a corner allowing Portland to delete the “0” from its win column. After Valeri, who’d taken the corner, saw the play swung back to his side, a driven cross at the near post found Urruti, who put his first try off the near post. Sprawled, Hamid had no time defend a shot put back across goal, the rebound having come straight back to the Argentine forward. With his second goal of the year, Urruti gave the Timbers their first win of the season.
It was a result that highlighted the bizarre nature of such a low scoring sport. The Timbers didn’t played appreciably better than they had against Seattle or Real Salt Lake, yet they posted their first win of the season. And whereas a freak Jose Gonçalves own goal and a home field smash-and-grab against New York contributed to D.C.’s unbeaten run, the team’s loss in Portland was one of their better overall performances of the season.
It’s a paradox that warns against dwelling on any small set of results. For the Black and Red, Saturday’s 90 minutes ended with a loss, but the team provided more reason to think this year’s start is sustainable. And for the Timbers, though their performance still featured as many misgivings as virtues, the team will no longer have to answer questions about a winless start.