By MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, Ore.– Early Sunday afternoon, Caleb Porter sent Will Johnson a text message telling him to score a free kick goal during the Timbers match against the San Jose Earthquakes. Being the captain that he is, Johnson decided to do exactly as his coach had asked.
Johnson’s second-half free-kick was the difference as the Timbers pulled out a 1-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes at Jeld-Wen Field Sunday night. About 20 yards from goal, Johnson lifted his kick over the wall and past a diving Jon Busch to give the Timbers the win.
“It was kind of funny. I texted him today and had a weird feeling he was going to hit a free kick,” Porter said. “I said, ‘why don’t you smack a free-kick goal today?’ So when he hit it, I couldn’t believe it.”
“He sent me a text this afternoon just saying a free kick goal would be nice,” Will Johnson said. “It was a special play, but there were lots of special plays tonight.”
There might have been many special plays for the Timbers, but there were hardly any goal scoring opportunities for either team for the majority of the match. Other than the free kick, the most memorable moment of the match came immediately after Johnson fouled Alan Gordon during the first few minutes of the second half.
As the two players got to their feet, Gordon appeared to unfurl a gay slur at Johnson. Johnson then held up three fingers at Gordon, seemingly to indicate the three-game suspension that the MLS is known to hand down to players who use slurs.
A quarter hour later, Gordon received his second yellow after elbowing Mikael Silvestre in the head. Silvestre had to be restrained from going after Gordon after the play.
The elbow was a microcosm of a game that saw San Jose try to out-physical Portland. The Earthquakes were constantly going toe-to-toe with Timber players, however, it had little effect on the Timbers.
“I told the guys, we need to out-fight [SJ] and we need to out-football them, too,” Porter said. “I thought we matched their intensity.”
The Timbers continued to have gaudy passing numbers with 529 to San Jose’s 289 and maintained 64.3% for the match. San Jose seemed to struggle to keep up with the pace once Gordon was sent off.
“I thought we wore them down and were very patient and methodical,” Porter said. “We had a lot of the ball and all you need is one to win.”
San Jose received little production from its star trio of Gordon, Chris Wondolowski, and Steven Lenhart, who were starting together for just the second time in MLS. The three combined for just three shots and never really threatened the Timbers goal.
Wondolowski was rarely around the ball for the first 70 minutes of the match while playing as a right-sided midfielder. It wasn’t until after Gordon’s sending off that he took his place at the top of the Earthquakes formation.
While San Jose started its three prolific attacking players for the first time this season, the Timbers were forced to start Futty Danso at center back. After injuries to David Horst and Andrew Jean-Baptiste, the Gambian International made his first appearance of the season.
Despite Danso having never started next to Silvestre, San Jose rarely threatened the Timbers goal. In fact, it was the fourth straight match that Portland used a different center back combination.
“Futty and Mikael were fantastic,” Will Johnson said. “The way they play with Lenhart and Gordon, when they were in the game, is just balls coming up time-and-time again and they’re fighting and those guys matched it every step of the way.”
The shutout was the second straight for the club and moves the Timbers (2-1-3, 9 points) up to third in Western Conference and one point ahead of San Jose (2-3-2, 8 points). The clubs will meet again next Sunday at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Here are the match highlights: