SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Victor Bernardez’s booming free kicks are well known, but on Saturday night, the finesse part of his game proved key as the San Jose Earthquakes scored a 2-1 win over the Portland Timbers.
The burly center back tucked home a rare penalty kick for the first of two quick second half goals, and the Quakes held on through a nervy final few minutes to earn a first-ever league win against their Western Conference rivals.
Bernardez, manning the spot in the absence of star forward Chris Wondolowski, converted in the 55th minute, and Steven Lenhart scored three minutes after that to help Mark Watson's side build their first winning streak of 2013.
Darlington Nagbe got a goal back for Portland in the 83rd minute, but the Timbers couldn’t find an equalizer, even after Marvin Chavez saw yellow twice in the space of a minute and was sent off with four minutes left in regulation time.
San Jose (7-9-6) won their second straight match to move past Seattle and into seventh place in the Western Conference standings. The Timbers (8-3-10) lost for the second time in four games since their 15-match unbeaten streak came to an end earlier this month.
Quakes winger Shea Salinas earned the penalty kick – the fourth called against Portland this season – when his slaloming counterattack ended in a collision with Timbers center back Andrew Jean-Baptiste.
Ordinarily, San Jose penalty kicks are taken by Wondolowski, but with the Quakes star on international duty with the US Gold Cup squad, the job was open.
Bernardez, known primarily for his booming free kicks from long distance, used a different technique to beat Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who came in with the league’s second-best goals-against average at 0.84 per match. Bernardez went low to Ricketts’ right as the Jamaican international dove in the opposite direction.
Salinas also played a part in the Quakes’ second goal, delivering a free kick from deep on the left wing to the far post. That’s where Lenhart slipped in behind the Timbers’ defense and touched the ball home with a sliding poke.
Nagbe, set free by a nifty back-heel assist from Frederic Piquionne, converted from 14 yards to give Portland new life late.
Chavez earned his first yellow in the 85th minute after colliding on the full run with Portland defender Pa Modou Kah. He drew a second from referee Drew Fischer seconds later in the 86th after interfering with Diego Valeri’s setup for the resultant free kick.
Both teams are back in action on Aug. 3, with the Quakes hosting Chivas USA and the Portland Timbers heading back home to face their Cascadia rivals, the Vancouver Whitecaps.