The Portland Timbers’ “simple goal is to win and advance” in the U.S. Open Cup, as Caleb Porter put it after Wednesday night’s game. And that is exactly what Portland did in their U.S. Open Cup fourth round fixture against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
The Timbers took control early and never looked seriously in danger of losing their grasp on Wednesday night, as they cruised to a drama-free 2-0 win to set up a quarterfinal matchup at Dallas in two weeks.
Just as they did in their third round fixture against the Wilmington Hammerheads, Portland put themselves on top early on Wednesday. In the 9th minute, a Jose Valencia pass was deflected in the attacking third, and Michael Nanchoff let the ball bounce at the top left corner of the box before volleying it first time past Tampa Bay keeper Diego Restrepo and into the far side netting to open the scoring.
After a somewhat anemic start, Nanchoff’s goal pulled the Timbers into the game. Over the course of the next 20 minutes, the Timbers put the kybosh on any upset ambitions that Tampa Bay harbored, and grabbed a hold on the game they wouldn’t relinquish.
Tampa Bay’s best chance of the first half came via a 26th minute corner that fell for Raphael Cox at the left corner of the box, but the Tacoma native’s open shot went well high – never seriously threatening Milos Kocic’s goal.
Portland nearly found the soresheet again five minutes later, when Kalif Alhassan nodded a Diego Valeri pass into the path of Frederic Piquionne, but the Timbers’ recent revelation’s shot was saved by Restrepo.
No matter how dominant a team is, however, it only takes a moment to erase a 1-0 lead. Coming out of halftime, Tampa Bay pushed hard to move back on their front foot and search for that tying goal.
But halftime substitute Jack Jewsbury was having none of it. After Nanchoff sent a beautiful 55th minute free kick into the box, Piquionne nodded down into Jewsbury’s path in front of goal, where the club captain finished routinely to put the game out of reach.
The Timbers weren’t finished attacking, however. In the 68th minute, recent entrant Darlington Nagbe received a clever backheel on the touchline from Alhassan and fed Jose Valencia in the box, but Trencito’s low, hard shot from the right side was saved nicely by Restrepo.
The young Colombian was at it again three minutes later when he made one of his signature solo runs into the box and unleashed another goalward low strike, but Restrepo was up to the task yet again.
As the minutes ticked down, however, the Timbers became increasingly content to see the match through. That isn’t to say the Rowdies wouldn’t make some noise.
After Tampa Bay forced an awkward clearance from the Timbers backline, they earned a 78th minute free kick in the middle of the field 25 yards from goal that Luke Mulholland bent over the wall and off the crossbar.
The Rowdies, however, would never get that close again, as Portland professionally polished off another U.S. Open Cup victory. Just as they did two weeks ago against Wilmington Hammerheads, the Timbers faced an overmatched opponent at home and never gave them hope. And the result was a win and the right to advance.
Onward, Rose City!