PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Portland Timbers’ season-opening draw with Philadelphia left them wondering what they could have done to pull out the win.
“I think every single guy, if they look at that game, they’ll say ‘Yes, I could have done more.’ We have to fix that,” captain Will Johnson said.
Newcomer Gaston Fernandez scored on a header in stoppage time to give the Timbers the 1-all draw against the re-tooled Union on Saturday night.
The goal in the 93rd minute got past goalkeeper Zac MacMath in driving rain, and the Timbers stole three points from the Union, who got a goal in the 64th minute from Jack McInerney.
The Timbers went 14-15-5 last season to finish atop the Western Conference. Portland advanced to the conference finals in the playoffs, losing to Real Salt Lake. First-year coach Caleb Porter was named MLS Coach of the Year for guiding his team to a 23-game turnaround from the previous season.
“The coach in me is always looking down the road and how we can get better,” Porter said after the opener. “But I am happy we pulled out the point.”
Portland’s 15 draws last season were the most in the league since 2011.
The Union went 12-12-10 last season, finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference and missing the playoffs for the second straight year.
But Philadelphia looked like a new team in the opener, pressuring the Timbers from the start. After a scoreless first half, McInerney, with help from newcomer Maurice Edu, headed the ball past Ricketts off a corner from Cristian Maidana in the 64th minute.
It was the 25th goal of McInerney’s career. He had 12 goals last season for the Union.
“To give one up in injury time is a tough way to lose a couple of points, but Portland’s a really good team, so you’ve got to think there’s a lot to build on from that game,” Union coach John Hackworth said.
Philadelphia’s offseason moves were headlined by the addition of Edu, acquired from English Premier League side Stoke City in late January. The Union also added Maidana and traded for Austin Berry.
Unlike the Union, the nucleus of the Timber remained largely intact, including Goalkeeper of the Year Donavan Ricketts, top scorer and Newcomer of the Year Diego Valeri and All-Star Will Johnson, the team’s captain. Portland added Fernandez and defender Norberto Paparatto, both of Argentina.
Porter called Fernandez’s goal in the opener important for his acclimation to the team.
“It’s big. I think part of scoring goals is confidence,” Porter said. “Hopefully it gets him rolling.”
Ricketts had to dive to fend off Maidana’s shot in the 20th minute as the rain swirled in the gusty wind.
Portland appeared tentative until late in the first half, but a rally fell short when Valeri’s hard shot from out in front of the box sailed just wide. The Timbers looked to have a chance to even it in the 71st minute, but Valeri was called for a hand ball and the whistle blew before his shot hit the back of the net.
Philadelphia played without midfielder Conor Casey, who also missed the preseason with a calf strain.
Portland pulled defender Pa-Modou Kah in the 34th minute when he went down behind the play. Kah was replaced by Futty Danso.
The Timbers inducted Mick Hoban, the team’s first contracted player before their inaugural 1975 NASL season, into the team’s Ring of Honor. Following his retirement from the game in 1978, Hoban was hired by Blue Ribbon Sports — which later became Nike — to help develop the shoemaker’s soccer business. He has remained one of Portland’s most dedicated soccer ambassadors.
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