PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Timbers teammate Lucas Melano touched the ball before Diego Valeri’s free kick against Toronto, telling him he would score.
Valeri did, and it would be the winner.
“He said you will score this goal, you will score in this moment,” Valeri said afterward with a nod to his fellow Argentinian. “So thank you, Lucas.”
Valeri’s successful 74th minute effort gave the Portland Timbers a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday.
The winning goal, which gave Portland a three-match undefeated streak and snapped Toronto’s three-game run without a loss, came on Valeri’s birthday.
“It’s my first time with that, scoring a goal on my birthday,” he said. “It is a gift, and obviously we got three points too.”
Portland took the early lead with a goal on in the 17th minute on a nice series from Darren Mattocks to Valeri and then to Fanendo Adi in the middle of the box for the goal. It was Adi’s seventh goal of the season, tying him with San Jose’s San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski for the league lead.
Former Timbers player Will Johnson scored for Toronto in the 40th minute, rushing in on a loose ball and beating diving Portland goal keeper Jake Gleeson.
“I have all the respect in the world for those guys and they know it. I think the feeling’s mutual,” Johnson said. “Obviously, I compete for my team during the 90 minutes, but there’s always a part of me that respects them, no matter what.”
The match, under sunny skies with temperatures in the low-80s, capped an eight-game trip for Toronto FC to open the season while BMO Field is renovated. The Reds went (3-3-2) over that span.
Toronto FC was coming off a 2-0 victory at rival Montreal. Sebastian Giovinco scored both goals in the victory. Giovinco, the reigning MLS MVP, has six goals this season, but the Timbers managed to shut him down.
Portland saw the return of two key players - including Valeri, who missed Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at New England because of accumulated yellows. Captain Liam Ridgewell also came back from a hamstring injury that has kept the defender out since he played in the opener.
Timbers fans were angered in the first half with Johnson’s sliding tackle on Valeri. A trainer came out to attend to Valeri, who was able to shake it off and play on.
“Just a hard play. Just trying to make a tackle and he didn’t see much in it either, Johnson said. “Just went in for a play and that’s my game and just move on to the next one.”
Referee Baldomero Toledo told a pool reporter after the game: “The degree of force and speed of the tackle may have warranted a foul but nothing more. The contact was not sufficient for misconduct.”
Portland had a good chance to pull ahead in the 55th minute when Lucas Melano took off on a fast break and passed to Adi charging at the goal, but the ball went wide right.
Jozy Altidore’s point-blank header for Toronto in the 63rd minute was denied by Gleeson, who said later it hit him on his chest and left arm.
“Just got a little bit lucky on that one,” Gleeson said. “I’ll take it though.”
Gleeson came up with another big save on Johnson’s attempt in extra time, and the Reds sent goalkeeper Clint Irwin up the field on a corner kick but couldn’t even it again before time ran out.
“To win games, you’ve got to invest and you’ve got to dig deep and I thought we did that today,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said.
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