Midfielder Diego Valeri scored in his MLS debut and midfielder/forward Darlington Nagbe scored his first goal of the season to help the Portland Timbers battle back to earn a 3-3 draw against the New York Red Bulls in a hotly contested season opener for both clubs on Sunday evening, before a sellout crowd of 20,674 at JELD-WEN Field.
Trailing 3-1 at halftime, the Timbers assembled a dominating second-half performance to fight back to earn a share of the points. Portland controlled 65 percent of the possession and out-shot the Red Bulls 13-4 in the second half.
Nagbe struck for his first goal of the season to pull the Timbers within a goal in the 56th minute and second-half sub Jose Valencia forced an own goal by New York's Jámison Olave inside the final 10 minutes of the contest to pull the Timbers level at 3-3.
Newcomer Fabián Espíndola scored twice in the first half, finding the back of the net in the ninth and 24th minutes to help the Red Bulls (0-0-1, 1pt) take the lead heading into the break. After Espíndola's opening goal, Portland's Valeri tallied the initial equalizer in the 14th minute.
The 20,674 on hand marked the Timbers' 35th consecutive sellout at JELD-WEN Field. Sunday's draw extended Portland's current home unbeaten streak to seven matches, dating back to a 1-1 draw against FC Dallas last season on Aug. 5, 2012.
Espíndola opened his account in the ninth minute, taking advantage of a miscue by the Timbers backline. He lost the ball as he fought his way into the box, but Portland defender Mikael Silvestre went to play the ball back as goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts went to play the ball with his hands. The result of the play left a loose ball in front of the goal, and Espíndola was able to give chase and deposited the ball into the back of the net.
Valeri became the fourth MLS Timbers player to score a goal in his club debut, tallying the initial equalizer in the 14th minute. At the top of the box, midfielder Kalif Alhassan was able to one-time a pass from midfielder Will Johnson and found Valeri streaking into the box. Valeri worked around one Red Bulls defender before slotting the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal.
Espíndola capped his brace in the 24th minute, cashing in on a long ball played over the top that got in behind the Portland backline. From the right side of the penalty area, Espíndola drove a shot past Ricketts inside the far post. Four minutes later, Olave connected on a cross from midfielder Ruben Bovar Izquierdo inside the six-yard box and knocked the ball over the goal line to give New York a two-goal lead at the break.
Portland's attack came alive on the second half, and Nagbe was able to pull one back for the home side in the 56th minute. Valeri attempted an initial shot from the top of the box, but New York goalkeeper Luis Robles spilled the save and Nagbe came crashing in to put away the rebound to cut the deficit 3-2.
The Timbers had several close scoring chances over the final half hour, and were able to tie the score at 3-3 in the 83rd minute on an own goal by Olave. Putting the Red Bulls defense under pressure, Valencia collected a loose ball in the box following a save by Robles. Valencia drove a sharply hit ball from the right side back in front of goal that hit Olave and was redirected into his own goal in the 83rd minute.
Over the closing minutes, the Timbers nearly struck for the game-winner on multiple occasions. Forward Ryan Johnson had two dangerous chances in second-half stoppage time, including a bicycle kick from the top of the box that just missed the top left corner of the goal. In total, the Timbers attempted 13 of their 21 shots in the second half, forcing Robles into five second-half saves.
The Timbers play host to the Montreal Impact for the first time as MLS sides on Saturday, March 9, at JELD-WEN Field; kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
The matchup against Montreal will be televised on FOX 12.
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