Chara brothers propel Portland Timbers to draw vs. Earthquakes in San Jose


Portland Timbers forward Yimmi Chara (23), center, scores a goal against San Jose Earthquakes defender Paul Marie (33) and San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski (18), right, during the first half of an MLS soccer match Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe) APAP

It can take a special connection for players to combine for a goal. Luckily for the Portland Timbers, they have the Chara brothers, who teamed up for a crucial goal Wednesday to earn a point in San Jose against the Earthquakes.

With the 1-1 draw, the Timbers (4-4-3, 15 points) don’t improve their position in the standings much and sit tied with two other teams for fifth place, but they did curtail a recent trend of conceding goals in bunches.

The Timbers struck first in San Jose in the 33rd minute. Diego Chara flicked the ball with the outside of his foot upfield for Yimmi Chara to run onto, and the younger Chara beat defender Paul Marie to chip the ball over goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski, who made his first start for the Quakes since 2018.

It was only the sixth time in MLS history two brothers had combined to score a goal. It was Yimmi Chara’s first goal for the Timbers in his first start since sustaining an injury at the MLS is Back tournament.

“Yimmi showed his quality today,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. “He played an excellent game, was able to score a beautiful goal, and we played him the minutes we thought he needed. He continues to advance, to get stronger and better, and hopefully soon he’ll be fully fit to play 90.”

But Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili equalized for the Earthquakes (2-4-5, 11 points) in the 75th minute on a counterstrike. The referee originally ruled Timbers defender Dario Zuparic had made the goal-line clearance to deny the Quakes, but after the referee halted the game to review a video replay, he granted San Jose the game-tying goal.

Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark made a spectacular diving save in the 89th minute, shuffling across the goal to deny Chris Wondolowski and keep the score level. Clark recorded five saves on the night.

The Quakes nearly scored in the 23rd minute after a close-range Florian Jungwirth shot skidded off the crossbar. The sequence was started by an Oswaldo Alanis free kick that Clark was able to stop but not hold onto.

In the 38th minute, the post denied San Jose again. Vako fired a lovely bending ball through traffic that bounced off the far post.

Timbers designated player Jaroslaw Niezgoda had a wide open chance in the 55th minute that he couldn’t get enough power on.

Despite the draw, the Timbers found themselves under fire for much of the match. The Earthquakes got four times the shots in the first half and had three times as many “expected goals,” which is a stat that measures the quality of scoring chances.

The Earthquakes controlled 65% of the possession and out-shot the Timbers 19-6. The Quakes also led in total passes, passing accuracy and duels won.

The Timbers have especially struggled defensively since winning the COVID-designed MLS is Back tournament in August. Coming into Wednesday’s game, they had allowed at least three goals in four of their previous five games. Many of those goals have been allowed in bunches, such as the 15-minute stretch that saw the Timbers concede three goals en route to a 4-2 loss to LAFC on Sunday.

The Timbers haven’t recorded a shutout since a 1-0 win over Nashville SC on March 8, their last match before the MLS season was disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s been difficult when you play on the weekend and then midweek and again now we have to come here on the weekend, so we need to make rotations and I thought we did a great job today.”

The Timbers attack suffered a major setback just more than a week ago when Sebastian Blanco, the team’s best player and an MLS MVP contender, suffered a season-ending knee injury on Sept. 6.

Savarese rotated his lineup heavily from the one that lost 4-2 to LAFC on Sunday, making seven changes to the starting lineup, including resting Diego Valeri and Jeremy Ebobisse.

Before kickoff, the two teams gathered together and held up a banner that said “Stay strong California + Oregon,” a reference to the devastating wildfires across the West Coast that have forced thousands to evacuate their homes.

The air in Northern California had returned to safe levels by Wednesday night but much of Portland has continued to endure hazardous levels, which makes any outdoor activity unsafe. In the lead-up to Wednesday’s game, the Timbers had to train indoors in Portland since COVID-related restrictions prevent MLS teams from staying overnight in hotels for away trips. Teams instead arrive and leave the same day of games, either via bus or charter flight.

“I’m so proud of the guys,” Savarese said. “They have faced so many different things and this week has been very tough, not having good clean air to have normal training. I think sometimes they could’ve had better movements. It’s always difficult when you don’t have the chance to be able to practice these things.”

The match was originally supposed to be played three weeks ago but was postponed amid player strikes throughout the sports world prompted by the police shooting of an unarmed Black man in Wisconsin.

Up next, the Timbers have to travel to San Jose again Saturday and face the Earthquakes. After that, they host the Seattle Sounders without fans on Sept. 23 and go to Vancouver to face the Whitecaps on Sept. 27.

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