Portland Timbers’ CONCACAF Champions League debut ended in victory, with a 4-1 success over five-time Guyanese champions Alpha United.
Steve Zakuani, Maximiliano Urruti, Fanendo Adi and Alvas Powell fired the Timbers to victory at Providence Stadium, with the only response coming from the right boot of Barbosa Murillo.
United themselves are CCL novices, with their defeat to Olimpia two weeks ago only their third match in the competition, following a 10-2 aggregate defeat to Herediano in the preliminary round of the 2011/12 campaign.
The visitors’ line-up consisted mainly of fringe players, however they were to create the early opportunities. In the fourth minute, Michael Nanchoff ran inside from the right and sent a fizzer towards the top corner that Ronson Williams had to deal with, and another good save followed from the corner as Rauwshan McKenzie thumped a header low to the goalkeeper’s left.
Though Wayne Dover’s men then enjoyed a spell of possession, Portland soon took the lead. Kalif Alhassan slipped Zakuani in on goal, and the former Seattle Sounders FC winger kept his cool to slot inside the far post, netting the first continental strike in the club’s history.
Pa Kah should have immediately added to the score-line, but failed to capitalise on some slack home defending, steering wide from close range after meeting a deep Nanchoff set-piece.
It wasn’t long before the Alpha defence was breached a second time though, with Alhassan again the provider. His flick from Nanchoff’s reverse pass fell nicely into the path of Urruti, who skipped away from a weak challenge to beat Williams.
But on the stroke of half-time, the GFF National Super League outfit reduced the deficit with a stunning free-kick. With the dead-ball 25 yards out, Brazilian defender Murillo stepped up to power a swirling effort off the underside of the cross-bar and over the line.
The Hammers were unbeaten in the league last season as they won the title, and despite showing little steel here, they continued to press after the break. Andrew Weber was instantly called into action to repel a dipping long-range attempt from Caio Oliveria.
At the other end, Urruti was denied after a smart turn, before his replacement Adi battered a header over. It didn’t take long for the Nigerian to notch though, as a series of unsuccessful Timbers passes finally found Powell, whose centre was converted.
Adi had a second disallowed for offside, and Rod Wallace nodded straight at Williams, as Portland took a firm hold on proceedings. Keen not to go down without a fight, Manasseh Primo produced some wayward acrobatics for United, then diverted a cross too close to Weber, but it was soon game-over.
The Major League Soccer side made progress down the left through Wallace, and when the ball ran for Powell in front of goal, via Williams’ fumble, the 20-year-old made no mistake to conclude the scoring.