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Ebobisse, Valeri drive Timbers comeback against Red Bulls in Tucson preseason soccer

Portland club continues preseason unbeaten streak

Portland Timbers FC mounted a second-half comeback to draw with the New York Red Bulls at Kino North Stadium in Tucson on Saturday night.

New York's lineup was missing regulars like Bradley Wright-Phillips, Aaron Long and Southern Arizona native Luis Robles, but they managed to put the first on the board when Marcus Epps, a player just picked up from Philadelphia Union, delivered the ball to Bryan White. White's finish beat Portland's Jeff Attinella.

Portland continued to pressure. The offensive tandem of Dairon Asprilla, Diego Valeri and Sebastián Blanco combined for an attack that ended in a shot by Blanco over the crossbar. Blanco' s next foray towards the goal ended with him going to ground after a tap from a Red Bull defender.

Another attack, this time from Asprilla in the 28th minute, was saved by New York back-up keeper Evan Loura.

Epps created a second goal for his side with a pass to first-year player Sean Nealis, who managed to slip the ball through a crowd of Portland defenders in front of the goal.

The Timbers pulled Asprilla out at the half for Andy Polo, the Peruvian striker known as "La Joya."

Although Polo caused the New York back line headaches, it was the room he opened up for other players that became important. Blanco found U.S. national team player Jeremy Ebobisse who scored the first for the Timbers in minute 62.

In minute 70, Portland had a chance to equalize when Blanco was fouled in the box. Valeri sent the shot right down the middle to put the match even.

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Both teams play again at Kino North Stadium on Wednesday. At 3 p.m., the Red Bulls take on FC Tucson, and the Timbers face Phoenix Rising FC at 6 p.m.

'Too relaxed'

After the match, Portland coach Giovanni Savarese had praise for the Red Bulls, a team that he played for when they were playing under the name MetroStars in the 1990s.

"It's what I expected. This is a team that has a lot of players that are excited to play against players like Valeri and Blanco," he said. "They put up a good fight and they scored two goals the way I expected."

"We were a little too relaxed at the beginning... the guys that came into the game came with a good energy and were able to match up well," he added.

Like Wednesday night's game, the line-up Portland faced was not what will likely be rolled out on the field in two weeks. The team is working on several things like fitness and getting players used to the team's system. Does the fact that they aren't facing starters affect how this works as a training exercise?

"It shouldn't, but I think sometimes it does," he said. "It's how we react to it. Whoever you play against, you have to match up well."

Savarese added that Wednesday's line up will be a similar "split" to Saturday's match, but next Saturday's will "mirror" the line-up for their season opener against Colorado on March 2.

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Curtis Dutiel

Portland’s Jorge Villafaña