PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Gio Saverese described new forward Brian Fernandez as a competitor shortly after he was signed.
On Sunday, the Portland Timbers’ head coach was reminded why.
Fernandez scored in a league-record fifth consecutive game, helping the Timbers to a 1-0 victory over FC Dallas. He becomes the first player in MLS history to score in each of his first five regular-season games.
“He’s hungry, he wants to score, wants to help the team. He doesn’t just score for himself, he just wants to be important for the team and that’s why he runs the way he does, sacrificing for every ball, every situation he makes a difference,” Saverese said. “And he’s been great.”
Fernandez’s goal in the 42nd minute was a first-time, left-footed strike off a cross from the right side by Sebatstian Blanco. The shot deflected slightly off of Dallas defender Matt Hedges.
It was Fernandez’s sixth goal in five MLS regular-season appearances, and Portland’s second shutout of the season. The Timbers’ first shutout came eight days earlier, in a 4-0 home win over Houston.
Fernandez, a designated player who signed the biggest contract in club history in early May, previously tied the MLS record by scoring in his first four matches. He was tied with Alex Pineda Chacon, Carlos Ruiz and Charlie Davies.
Portland had six shots on goal leading up to Fernandez’s strike, while Dallas has two, including a deflected strike by Diego Valeri off a layup pass by Fernandez in the 29th minute. Cristhian Paredes intercepted a pass out of the Dallas back line and missed an open shot wide right in the 38th minute.
The Timbers had 17 shots on goal. Dallas had 11 of its 13 shots in the second half.
After Fernandez scored, FC Dallas created multiple goal scoring opportunities, highlighted by a chance by Jesus Ferreira in front of goal that was hit wide left in the 76th minute. In the 81st, Michael Barrios got the ball at the end of a counter attack, but his shot was deflected out of bounds. Defender Ryan Hollingstead volleyed a chance at goal over the crossbar in stoppage time.
Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez liked how his team responded in the second half, citing a change in demeanor after halftime. Gonzalez thought his team looked best in the first 10 minutes, but became timid for long stretches thereafter.
“They broke out of some pressure and attacked us, we lost the ball in the build and we just became timid for 30 minutes,” Gonzalez said. “They took advantage.”
Portland (6-8-2) played just its third home match of the season since opening its newly renovated stadium on June 1. The club played its first 12 games on the road, and is 2-1 at home.
FC Dallas (7-7-5) brought a four-game unbeaten streak into Sunday’s match, and was coming off a 2-2 tie against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday. FC Dallas is 0-6 on the season when it concedes a goal first. It’s the club’s first loss since May 25 at Vancouver.