By MIKE DONOVAN
In the same week he was named to the MLS All-Star Team, Diego Valeri delivered a game-winning blast that propelled the visiting Portland Timbers to a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Impact.
Valeri’s strike was the difference after a four-goal first half that saw Will Johnson and Maxi Urruti score in a six-minute span for Portland while Andres Romero and Maxim Tissot had the goals for Montreal at a rain-soaked Stade Saputo. The loss Sunday was the fifth straight defeat for the last-place Impact (3-12-5, 14 points).
Portland, on the other hand, won its second straight match and finds itself just one point below the red line thanks to Valeri. The Argentine DP made no mistake after the ball fell to him off a deflected Rodney Wallace cross, curving a one-bounce strike around Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush. It was the second consecutive game-winner for Valeri and his fifth goal of the season.
Despite dominating shots (20 to 9) and duels won (59 to 25), Portland needed the late goal after conceding just before the halftime whistle when Montreal tied the score at two behind a Maxim Tissot strike. It was the second career goal for the 22-year-old Quebec native and his first of the season.
Before Tissot’s goal, Portland used a penalty kick from its captain Johnson to gain a 2-1 lead. Valeri was brought down in the box by Hassoun Camara and referee Silvio Petrescu wasted little time pointing to the spot. Despite diving the correct way, Bush couldn’t stop Johnson’s spot-kick as the Canadian International tallied his sixth goal of the season.
Joining Valeri on the scoresheet for the second consecutive match was his fellow countryman, Urruti. Receiving his first start in seven league matches, Urruti pinged the ball off the post and in past a sprawling Bush. Darlington Nagbe had the assist after he creatively working his way past the Montreal defense before slotting the ball through to Urruti.
Despite playing fewer minutes on the season than 10 of his teammates, Urruti leads Portland in scoring with eight goals in 2014. The assist was Nagbe’s fourth of the season and the Akron product was a constant nuisance as he was fouled six times by the Impact while consistently dribbling his way through the middle of the field.
It was Montreal who tallied the match’s first goal when on their first attack inside the 18-yard box, Romero easily maneuvered around Danny O’Rourke before blasting the ball past Donovan Ricketts. The 13th-minute goal was the fifth of the season for the Argentine.
Both teams now head into Saturday matches, with Portland traveling to California for a nationally-televised match at the LA Galaxy while Montreal will host rival Toronto FC.