PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Diego Valeri scored an early goal and the Portland Timbers beat expansion Nashville SC 1-0 on Sunday.
Valeri scored in the 12th minute, with a volley to the far corner off a header from Andy Polo.
Valeri said afterward he wasn’t quite sure the goal was onside. But the flag never went up.
“I didn’t want to celebrate, just in case,” Valeri said. “But when I saw him after I kicked, I realized that it could be on, and yeah, I was so happy about it.”
Portland coach Giovanni Savarese said not only was it the winner, but the goal itself was a “masterpiece.”
“He is capable of doing those things. It was a very important play in which he found the right space and the finish was fantastic,” Savarese said. “What an amazing goal for him, and at the end of the day that gave us what we needed.”
The match came as the city of Nashville recovers from tornadoes that killed 24 people and caused massive damage in middle Tennessee last week.
Fans at the game displayed a large banner that said “Rose City (heart) Music City.” Players on both sides wore badges on their jerseys with the initials NGUOY, for Never Give Up On You. The jerseys were to be auctioned after the game with the proceeds going to the recovery effort. The Timbers also pledged $15 of every general admission ticket sold to tornado relief.
Nashville said that a few players and staff members were impacted by the storms.
“We had two or three players that were affected by the tornado. What we all know is that there are plenty of families that have been been affected that are in a far more difficult position than any of us are,” Nashville coach Gary Smith said. “All of our best wishes and feelings go out to those people who have lost family members, and lost their homes.”
Nashville had perhaps its best chance of the game in the 69th minute when Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark was able to deflect Anibal Godoy’s shot from outside the box.
Nashville outshot Portland 14-3.
Portland rebounded from a 3-1 loss at home to Minnesota in the season opener last weekend.
Nashville was coming off a 2-1 loss at home to Atlanta United in its season opener at Nissan Stadium, with more than 59,000 fans on hand.
“It feels like right now we’re not giving teams many chances, and they’re punishing us in the worst possible way — by conceding world class goals left and right,” Nashville captain Dax McCarty said. “Plenty of work to do, plenty of positives that come out of the game, of course, but we’re sitting here after two games on zero points, feeling like we deserve a lot more.”