Timbers tie Earthquakes, boost playoff hopes

PORTLAND — Khari Stephenson's goal from 18 yards in the 70th minute allowed the San Jose Earthquakes to salvage a 1-1 tie with the Portland Timbers on Wednesday night.

The Timbers, who extended their unbeaten streak to five games, took a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute on a goal by Kenny Cooper.

The tie boost the Timbers' chances of reaching the MLS playoffs. Portland (10-12-7, 37 points) moved into sole possession of the 10th and final playoff berth.

With five games remaining in its inaugural season, Portland is one point ahead of New York and two points ahead of DC United.

Because they play four of their final five games on the road, the Timbers were hoping for a win. This season, Portland has won nine games at home, but is 1-8-4 on the road.

"It feels like a loss," Portland defender Mike Chabala said. "We didn't have many games left at home. We should have walked away with three points."

San Jose (6-11-12, 30) all but fell out of playoff contention with the tie.

"I thought we looked sharp offensively and defensively. I thought we were great from whistle to whistle," San Jose coach Frank Yallop said.

Though San Jose controlled the first half with its passing, Portland's offense created several nice chances, including one for a goal.

During the ninth minute, Darlington Nagbe ran down a ball deep in the right corner of the penalty box and crossed to Cooper, who chipped a shot past San Jose goalie Jon Busch for a 1-0 Timbers lead. It was Cooper's sixth goal of the season.

Portland's best-looking play came four minutes later when Sal Zizzo and Nagbe connected on a bang-bang passing play in front of San Jose's net.

Busch alertly went in front of Nagbe's shot to keep the deficit at 1-0.

San Jose's ball control began to pay off in the second half, as the Earthquakes repeatedly pressured Portland's defense.

San Jose finally beat the Timbers, when Stephenson nailed a shot from the top of the penalty box past Portland goalie Troy Perkins during the 70th minute to tie the game 1-1.

"I just don't think we played well enough to win the game," Portland coach John Spencer said. "They played very well and we still managed to get a point."

The first of Portland's final four road games is Saturday at New York, the Timbers' nearest playoff contender.

"I think we're good enough to pick up points on the road," Spencer said.

Starting Saturday in Colorado, the Earthquakes play three of their final five games on the road.

The crowd of 18,627 marked Portland's 16th consecutive sellout.

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