BY MIKE DONOVAN
Coming into Saturday night, the host San Jose Earthquakes had never beaten the Portland Timbers in a MLS match.
That all changed Saturday night as Steven Lenhart and Victor Bernardez delivered a pair of second-half goals to give the Earthquakes a 2-1 victory and extend their home unbeaten streak to nine straight games. Darlington Nagbe got Portland on the board late, but the Timbers were unable to get the equalizer.
Despite missing Chris Wondolowski, Alan Gordon and the-yet-to-arrive Clarence Goodson, San Jose was able to get the needed three points and now fins themselves just five points back from the final playoff spot. The Earthquakes (7-9-6, 27 points) were led by midfielder Shea Salinas, who had a hand in both of San Jose’s goals.
On the buildup to the first goal, Salinas streaked from the halfway line to the Timbers penalty area and was awarded a penalty kick after being felled by Andrew Jean-Baptiste. Bernardez used a long run-up and blasted the spot-kick into the back of the net for his first goal of the season, giving the Quakes the lead ten minutes after the second half restart.
San Jose’s second goal came just four minutes later when Salinas curled a quick free kick into the box that found an unmarked Lenhart. On the defensive end, the Furman product was a major presence in snuffing out potential Timbers attacks.
While Portland (8-3-10, 34 points) has made a habit of making the correct halftime adjustments this season, it was San Jose who came out of the lockerroom with the edge. In fact, the game marked just the second time in 2013 that the Timbers were outscored in the second half of a match.
The Timbers pulled one back when Frederic Piquionne used a backheel to spring Nagbe, who calmly put the ball around Jon Busch. In addition to the goal, Nagbe was a constant nuisance to San Jose, as evidenced by the five fouls he suffered in the match.
Marvin Chavez was sent off five minutes from the final whistle, but it didn’t matter for the final scoreline. Despite the physicality of the match, Chavez’s pair of yellow cards were the only bookings of the evening.
After a stretch of seven away games in their last ten matches, the Timbers now return to Portland for a three-game homestand in MLS play. First up for Portland is Cascadian rival, Vancouver on Saturday.
The Earthquakes, who haven’t lost at home since the 2013 season opener, will welcome Chivas USA to Buck Shaw Stadium Saturday as they look to notch a third consecutive win for the first time this season.