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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — As their offensive struggles continue, the Portland Timbers are hoping that the answer to their troubles made his return tonight.
Diego Valeri played 38 minutes as a substitute in what was the highlight of Saturday's 0-0 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
"A little bit tired. It's normal for my first 40 minutes in a game. But I was focused on the game. The way we played, that helped me, because we just attack all game, trying to find the goal," said Valeri after the match. "So, like I said, a little bit tired, but happy to get back."
The Timbers' top goal-scorer for the last two seasons has been out of action since tearing his left ACL on Oct. 25. Portland (2-3-4) has missed Valeri's touch this season, netting just seven goals in nine games.
"Couldn't come at a better time," said Portland head coach Caleb Porter. "It's nice to have Valeri back, because if you look at his production for us, he's had the lion's share of our production over the last several years."
Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson was equally full of praise for Valeri. "I'm delighted to have him back. I really am," said Robinson. "Cause he's a good player and I want to see good players in this league. Because it tests my young players."
Portland had the best opportunity to win the game midway through the first half. Vancouver defender Pa Modou Kah, a former Timber, was called for a handball, but Darlington Nagbe's penalty kick ricocheted off the base of the goalpost and bounced clear.
"He knows he has to make it. He's done this since he was 14 years old and he never wants to take penalty kicks. Ever," said Porter. "So while it was disappointing that he missed the penalty kick, he took responsibility to take it."
Saturday's draw moves Vancouver (5-3-2) into a tie with FC Dallas for first place in the Western Conference with 17 points.
Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted made one save in his fifth shutout of the season. Timbers keeper Adam Kwarasey made two saves to earn his fourth shutout.
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