By MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, Ore.- Coming off two straight defeats for the first time this season, the Portland Timbers were looking to get back on track against Toronto FC. And the Timbers delivered in a big way, scoring their largest victory in the club’s MLS history.
Kalif Alhassan, Rodney Wallace, Will Johnson and Diego Valeri scored the goals as the Timbers defeated Toronto FC 4-0, Saturday night at Jeld-Wen Field. The victory kept Portland in a tie for fourth place in the Western Conference standings with the Colorado Rapids.
“It was a good win for us, one we’ve been searching for all year,” said Wallace, who tallied his sixth goal of the season. “It was a special night for the whole team.”
Both clubs were without numerous starters due to injuries and national team callups, but Portland did have the services of their captain, Johnson, for the first time in five matches. Johnson combined with Diego Chara to dominate the central midfield as the Timbers outpassed the Canadian side by an impressive 532-264 margin.
The return of Johnson, who scored his seventh goal of 2013, gave a major boost to the Timbers, who had lost four of their previous nine matches.
“We’ve had to fight through some things. It’s built our character, it’s increased our depth, and I think it’s made us hungrier,” head coach Caleb Porter said.
The game was still in doubt until Gale Agbossoumonde played a carelesss pass that was easily stolen by Valeri. Valeri then played in an open Wallace to give the Timbers a 2-0 lead in the 83rd minute. The assist was Valeri’s 12th of the season, which ties him for the league lead. Wallace’s goals opened the floodgates as Portland added two goals late for the final scoreline.
“We’re at one-zero and we’re one play away from losing the game. Our guys looked very big and up for it in those moments,” Porter said. “That’s key. We can build on that. There’ve been a couple other games where we’ve shrunk in those moments and not made plays.”
Valeri added a goal of his own in stoppage time, giving him six for the season. After not starting the match after getting injured in the Real Salt Lake match a week ago, Valeri delivered both a goal and an assist in just 13 minutes of action. Valeri’s insertion to the match seemed to be the piece that springboarded Portland to the four-goal victory.
“It wasn’t as easy as the result says. It was one-nothing for the majority of the game. They had some dangerous counterattacks,” said Milos Kocic, who got his second start of the season in goal. “I think we did well to put the game away.”
After giving up a late tying goal in his only other start this season, Kocic delivered two saves against his former club. Kocic was making the start due to the international absence of Donovan Ricketts, who received his 100th cap for Jamaica Friday.
Alhassan got the Timbers on the board just before halftime when he collected a poor Toronto clearance with his chest and smacked a volley past a diving Joe Bendik. For Alhassan, the goal was his second of the season and delivered Portland the halftime lead. Prior to Alhassan’s goal, the Ghanian had rattled the woodwork and throughout the match was a threat to Bendik’s goal.
The final scoreline was harsh to Bendik, who could do little on any of the four Timbers goals. Toronto FC has come into the match on a modest two-game unbeaten run, but they head back to Canada with their worst loss of the season. On the other side, the four-goal victory was the largest for the Timbers since their MLS debut in 2011.
While the victory gives a boost to the Timbers playoff chances, the club is staying focused on their next opponent, not looking ahead to the postseason. This is a change in mentality, according to Johnson.
“We’ve gone back to just looking at it one game at a time,” the Timbers captain said. “There’s no need to look ahead past (Chivas), because we might have been guilty of that recently.”
Toronto returns home for a midweek clash Wednesday with the Chicago Fire, while the Timbers head to Southern California Saturday to take on Chivas USA.
Here are the game highlights: