Santiago Moreno scores twice, Portland Timbers squeeze out 2-1 win against Houston Dynamo


Thanks to a first half brace from Santiago Moreno, the Portland Timbers were able to pull out a 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo Wednesday night at Providence Park. They did so despite rampant physical play on both ends, which included nine total cards handed out between the two teams, and they had to play the final 15 minutes with just 10 men after defender Bill Tuiloma was sent off.

The Timbers (5-6-7, 22 points) sit just outside the playoff picture at eighth in the Western Conference, one point behind rival Seattle. With the loss, the Dynamo fall to 6-8-3 on the season (21 points).

“We need these type of results at home,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. “Even though we suffered in the second half — it was difficult, especially with 10 men, and credit to Houston — I’m extremely proud of how the guys ground it out and defended well to make sure we got the result that we needed. We’ve played some good games and created some good opportunities, and we haven’t capitalized in points. The fact we did it today and were able to get three points is very, very important.”

Both teams came out of the gates firing, each finding dangerous areas in the attacking third. Portland’s first was in the third minute on a deep take from Sebastian Blanco with his left foot that narrowly missed. Houston’s first came in the eighth, a shot in close from Sebastian Ferreira that was blocked by swarming Portland defenders.

The game was highly physical from the outset, too, with six yellow cards handed out in the first half alone. For Portland, Blanco earned one in the 17th minute, Dario Zuparic in the 21st and Moreno in the 42nd. Tuiloma ended up with two and will be suspended for the Timbers’ next match.

Before he got his card, though, Moreno scored a pair of spectacular goals.

The first came in the 34th minute as Yimmi Chara drew a foul in the box by Houston’s Daniel Steres, sending Moreno to the penalty spot. He calmly nailed one with pace to former Timbers keeper Steve Clark’s right, making it 1-0 Timbers.

Two minutes later, Moreno struck again, thanks once again to the play of Chara. On an aggressive run into the box by Blanco, he played it off to Chara, who touched it back to his right to the feet of Moreno. With one goal in hand, Moreno netted another with a left-footed strike that sent Providence Park into a frenzy.

“I just want to give a big thanks to my teammates for all their hard work during the game,” Moreno said in Spanish. “I think we put on an exciting match tonight and worked really hard every second. Obviously, I’m very happy about my goals, but I’m just happy to get the three points and get the win tonight.”

Energized from Moreno’s stellar scores, Portland led 2-0 at the half despite being outshot by the Dynamo, 11-6.

Houston kept the pressure on in the second half, repeatedly finding its way into strong attacking positions. Tuiloma picked up his first yellow card in the 54th minute, and after a few strong saves from goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic, Portland finally ceded one.

Houston scored a skillful goal in the 65th minute, a beauty from way outside by Darwin Quintero to make it 2-1.

Portland found itself with chances to regain a two-goal lead, but it wasn’t able to finish them. The game plan changed when Tuiloma picked up his second yellow in the 75th minute and was sent off. Savarese brought on three defensive-oriented subs in David Ayala, Zac McGraw and Larrys Mabiala in the 77th minute.

Moreno came off during that substitution, ending his opportunity to score the first hat-trick in Timbers history. Portland was far more concerned with keeping the result.

And keep it the Timbers did, preventing the Dynamo from netting the equalizer and earning their second straight win even though Houston finished with a decisive advantage in shots (24-10).

“We had an amazing first half, and then we have to always make it hard for us,” Ivacic said. “We are our worst enemy I think. Instead of putting the game away 3-0 or 4-0, there was 2-1, and then we struggled at the end. But the most important thing is we got the win, and that’s it.”

Portland’s next match is on the road at Nashville, with kickoff scheduled for 5:30 p.m. PT (TV on Fox 12 Plus).

— Ryan Clarke,

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