ESPN2 was blessed with a back-and-forth battle between the New York Red Bulls and the Portland Timbers in their first Sunday-night game of the week of the 2013 MLS season that ended in a 3-3 draw. In front of the 20,000-strong Timbers Army, the Red Bulls dominated their way to a 3-1 lead in the opening half-hour before the home side roared back to force the stalemate.
A Portland side featuring a handful of new acquisitions looked disjointed in the first half as New York raced to an early lead. Center back Mikael Silvestre was off the pace in his first match at JELD-WEN Field, his blunders costing the Timbers on at least two goals against. Silvestre’s first big mistake came as he errantly whistled a back pass bouncing past goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts in the ninth minute for Fabian Espindola to tap into the gaping net for a 1-0 Red Bulls lead.
New Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri equalized five minutes later, taking a Kalif Alhassan pass and fooling Jamison Olave with a volley before finishing his dazzling run by tucking the ball past Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles. Timber Joey fired up the chainsaw for the first time in the young season, and things were once again level.
They stayed that way for just ten minutes longer, as Silvestre once again handed New York the lead in the 24th minute with a misplay of new Red Bull — and former Timber — Kosuke Kimura. Bungling the through ball, Silvestre was out of position as Espindola slipped behind for his brace. Four minutes on the lead would be doubled off a corner kick, Ruben Bover Izquierdo hitting wide to Heath Pearce. Slotting through a pass right past Silvestre and Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Pearce found Olave for the goal that gave New York a 3-1 halftime lead.
The Timbers found their offense in the second half thanks to Valeri’s leadership. Portland would ultimately get ten shots on Robles’ goal by the end of the match, and 11 minutes after the intermission new Timbers head coach Caleb Porter saw his former star at the University of Akron, Darlington Nagbe, pull one back after Robles gave up a rebound of a Valeri screamer. The hosts continued to press forward.
It finally paid off in the 83rd minute, as Jose Valencia — who had come on as a substitute for Alhassan ten minutes earlier — blasted a shot that developed from Robles’ save of a Nagbe strike and ended with an own goal caroming off Olave to level the score once again for Portland.
Ryan Johnson hit a brilliant bicycle kick in the penultimate minute that flew a foot wide of the far post. The first match of MLS Opening Weekend to end knotted without a winner, ESPN2 nevertheless scored the match of the week with their first Sunday showcase of the year.
NEW YORK RED BULLS @ PORTLAND TIMBERS
March 3, 2013
- 9′ — NY/Fabian Espindola (unassisted)
- 14′ — POR/Diego Valeri (Kalif Alhassan, Will Johnson)
- 24′ — NY/Fabian Espindola (Kosuke Kimura)
- 28′ — NY/Jamison Olave (Heath Pearce, Ruben Bover Izquierdo)
- 56′ — POR/Darlington Nagbe (unassisted)
- 83′ — NY/Jamison Olave (own goal)
- POR (4-3-3): Donovan Ricketts; Michael Harrington, Mikael Silvestre, Andrew Baptiste, Ryan Miller (Sal Zizzo/72′); Will Johnson, Diego Valeri, Diego Chara (Rodney Wallace/82′); Darlington Nagbe, Ryan Johnson, Kalif Alhassan (Jose Valencia/72′)
- NY (4-2-3-1): Luis Robles; Roy Miller, Heath Pearce, Jamison Olave, Kosuke Kimura (Eric Alexander/89′); Dax McCarty, Tim Cahill; Ruben Bover Izquierdo (Jonathan Steele/66′), Juninho, Fabian Espindola (Brandon Barklage/73′); Thierry Henry