Liam Ridgewell helped the Portland Timbers move a step closer to their first MLS Cup final appearance on Sunday night by opening the scoring in his side’s 3-1 victory over FC Dallas in the first leg of the Western Conference Championship series.
The former Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion defender, who has captained the Timbers for most of the season due to usual skipper Will Johnson’s fitness issues, gave the hosts the lead in the 23rd-minute at Providence Park when he bundled in Dairon Asprilla’s flick-on at the far post following a Darlington Nagbe corner.
Asprilla later doubled Portland’s advantage seven minutes into the second half with a sensational long-distance strike, before Dallas pulled one back through David Texeira just after the hour.
Texeira’s finish came moments after Ridgewell had to be substituted for Norberto Paparatto after injuring his calf, and his replacement seemed to lose his marker in the lead-up to the goal.
The Argentine made amends for his error in stoppage-time, however, when he nodded down a corner for fellow centre-back Nat Borchers to head home and restore Portland’s two-goal cushion.
The result leaves the Timbers in the driving seat ahead of the next weekend’s second leg in Frisco, Texas, but Ridgewell stresses that his side cannot get complacent after suffering a 4-1 thrashing at the conference’s no. 1 seed during the regular season.
“Obviously we know it’s a two-legged affair,” he told the club’s official website. “It’s only 45 minutes job done. So we’ve got to go again and press and do what we did tonight. We know we’re 3-1 up with that aggregate score. So it’s a tricky one, so we’ll manage it for sure. We’ll be looking forward to the game.”
Thanks for all the tweets. Calf is not to bad. Be ready for next week— Ridgy 6 (@liam_ridgewell) November 23, 2015
Continuing on his timely first goal of the season, the ex-Birmingham City man added: “It was a big thing, I think, all year coming. It’s been annoying not to get one. But one’s a start and hopefully I can put a couple more in going into the final. It was nice to get one and put us off on the right foot.
“I think we learned a lot about ourselves last game and we learned a lot about them. We’re in a good position at the minute. Nat’s [Borchers] goal really sent us on our way. We’ll be looking to go there and get a good result. Hopefully we can change that 4-1 [regular-season loss] to a victory.”
Ridgewell, 31, originally joined the Timbers as a Designated Player in June 2014 after his contract at West Brom expired and has since made 53 total appearances for club, while recording three goals and two assists in the process.