Philadelphia Union struck first to open the 2012 season, but were ultimately undone on the road by the Portland Timbers, falling 3-1 on a rainy evening at JELD-WED Field.
The first half passed with little incident as both teams tried to integrate new faces. Newcomer Kris Boyd and rookie Andrew Jean-Baptiste made debuts for the home side, while Union manager Peter Nowak handed debuts to four players, Gabriel Gomez, defender Porfirio Lopez, and attackers Lionard Pajoy and Josue Martinez.
Unsurprisingly, both sides struggled to find a rhythm thanks to the slick surface and opening-day nerves.
The Union opened the scoring in the 51st minute on a scorching free kick from Gomez, which took a deflection off the head of Jean-Baptiste before sailing past Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins into the back of the net.
Philadelphia’s lead was short-lived, however, as Jean-Baptiste equalized for Portland when 20-year-old goalkeeper Zac MacMath fumbled the ball into the net. Jean-Baptiste out-jumped the Philly defense on a free kick from Jack Jewsbury, re-directing his header on goal. At first it appeared MacMath had the save, but the wet ball squirted through his hands.
The Timbers took their first lead in the 66th-minute when newcomer Kris Boyd flicked on a Khalif Alhassan cross with his head, just inside the far post to give Portland a 2-1 advantage.
In the 76th minute, Alhassan sealed the result with his first MLS goal, a chip to the far post that first appeared to be a cross. After collecting the ball on the right flank, Alhassan rounded Lopez and looped the ball into the side netting to give Portland a two-goal cushion.
Philadelphia were unable to cut the deficit in half despite bringing on Danny Mwanga, Jack McInerney and Keon Daniel, succumbing to Portland’s second-half pressure.
The Union return home to host the Colorado Rapids on Sunday, March 18 at 4:00 p.m. ET. Philadelphia’s home opener will be broadcast nationally on the new NBC Sports Network.