The Orange County Blues bounced back from a tough loss in Seattle on Friday night by turning the page quickly and defeating the Portland Timbers 2 2-0 at Providence Park on Sunday evening. Two first half goals allowed the visitors the space they needed against an inconsistent Portland side, and the result now moves the Blues to second place in the Western Conference, just one point behind the Seattle Sounders FC 2, with a game in hand on the leaders.
Timbers 2 used several MLS players in their lineup, including first team captain Will Johnson, in his second rehab match with T2, defender Norberto Paparatto, midfielders George Fochive and Michael Nanchoff, forward Gaston Fernandez and new addition Jeanderson. Oliver Wyss played a lineup that was a mix of regular starters and some depth players, a move that was effective on the night.
To the Blues' benefit, the game started out in a very slow pace, something that certainly helped the visitors coming off short rest. Through 45 minutes, OC dominated the offensive statistics, putting up eight shots to T2's zero, and grabbed a lead halfway through the opening term. Didier Crettenand got the ball in the midfield, dribbled up to about the 30-yard mark, and blasted a shot in open space. The shot bounced off the underside of the crossbar before landing behind the line in the 27th minute. It was a highlight-reel golazo, to be sure.
They then extended the lead seven minutes later, as Seung-ju Kim, making his 2015 debut for the Blues, sent a nice pass through traffic to Denzel Slager, who dribbled up the right side of the box and got enough on his shot to withstand Portland 'keeper Andrew Weber's partial save for the shot to tuck just inside the far post.
After being thoroughly outplayed in the first half, Timbers 2 came out much stronger in the second half, as they began to play with some urgency and moved into the final third and finally started testing Blues goalkeeper Pepe Miranda directly. There were a few points when there were scrambles in the box with the ball bouncing around dangerously, but OC's defense and Miranda held firm.
1. Didier Crettenand: Bounced back from his off night against Seattle on Friday to pick the game up by the proverbial scruff of the neck, and made a huge impact on both sides of the ball. When he's clicking, the Blues are so much the better for it.
2. Denzel Slager: Throttled Portland's sluggish defense in the first half and scored another impressive goal. Slager only appears to be getting better and better each game.
3. Pepe Miranda: Did not have much work in the first half, but was up to the test in the second. Picked up his third shutout of the season and helped OC prevent another opponent comeback to end the weekend on a high note.
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