PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers’ spring resurgence will roll right into summer after the Argentine pair of Maximiliano Urruti and Gaston Fernandez found goals in their 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night at Providence Park.
It’s Portland’s fourth straight MLS victory and fifth overall, following their US Open Cup win Wednesday over rival Seattle Sounders, pushing them into third place in the Western Conference with 25 points from 16 games.
Houston, who just a month ago thumped the Timbers by a 3-1 count at BBVA Compass Stadium, saw their two-game winning streak across all competition come to an end. They have now gone winless in three of their last four league matches to remain in eighth place in the West with 20 points from 16 games.
In what was a tight game throughout – with only six shots for Portland and nine for Houston – it was the Timbers who took their chances.
But first, it appeared that the Dynamo had the opener in the 15th minute on a corner-kick goal by Raúl Rodríguez. However, head referee Baldomero Toledo waived it off for a foul that sent Timbers defender Jorge Villafana sprawling to the turf.
That led to Portland’s first goal, also on a set piece, when Urruti got on the end of a Villafana free kick from approximately 30 yards out for an open header from the penalty spot in the 34th minute. It was Urruti’s third goal of the season and second in his last four league games; he also scored Wednesday in Portland’s USOC win.
The goal opened things up, and Portland nearly scored again four minutes later when Alvas Powell curled in an dangerous cross from the right wing that forced Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric to frantically backpedal to parry it away at the last moment.
But Portland didn’t get their second until the 61st minute, with Toledo making a mark on the game once again. He whistled former Timbers center back David Horst for a foul in the box on a 59th-minute corner kick, and Fernandez coolly chipped in the spot kick for his second goal in the last three games to put Portland in control.
Late Houston pressure resulted in chances for Ricardo Clark, Alexander López and DaMarcus Beasley, none of which were on target as Timbers ‘keeper Adam Kwarasey was forced to make just one save for his second straight clean sheet and third in the last four league games.
Houston’s best chance for a goal came in a nifty display of skill the 83rd minute when Clark fired off a juggling bicycle kick at the top of the box that caromed off the crossbar.
The Timbers return to action for a midweek road clash Wednesday with the LA Galaxy, while Houston’s next match is set for Friday against Texas rivals FC Dallas.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.