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Chara scores on bicycle kick, Timbers tie Revs 2-2 in opener

February 27, 2022 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Yimmi Chara scored on a bicycle kick goal in the 78th minute to pull the Portland Timbers into a 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution in the Major League Soccer opener for both teams Saturday.

Dairon Asprilla also scored for the Timbers to help deny the Revolution their first victory at Providence Park.

“I’ve definitely had a lot of opportunities to score nice goals but a bicycle kick is always a good opportunity, so I’m very happy with that,” Chara said through a translator.

New England got goals from Brandon Bye and newcomer Sebastian Lletget, traded to New England by the LA Galaxy in the offseason.

Revolution coach Bruce Arena remained tied with the late Sigi Schmid for the most regular-season victories in MLS with 240. Arena was the MLS Coach of the Year last season.

New England is the reigning Supporters Shield winner after amassing an MLS record 73 points last season. The Revs were knocked out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference semifinals by eventual MLS Cup champion New York City FC.

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The Timbers advanced all the way to the championship game last season but fell at home to NYCFC on a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw. Before the opener Saturday the 2021 Western Conference championship banner was unveiled in the rafters at Providence Park.

“In all sports playing away is is difficult. I think then to get a point in the opening game against a team that was in the MLS Cup finals last year, It’s not a bad result,” Arena said. “I would like three points, but I thought the result was fair.”

Bye’s header off a corner hit the crossbar and dropped into the goal in the 41st minute to give the Revolution a 1-0 lead.

Asprilla had a chance in the opening moments of the second half but the hard-hit ball sailed directly into the arms of New England goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr.

There was some controversy when it appeared Portland’s Santiago Moreno was tripped in the box in the 53rd minute. But Asprilla scored in the 61st to knot it at 1.

Lletget answered with a goal just a minute later and the Revolution reclaimed the lead. He was swarmed by his new teammates in celebration.

“I want to make my mark on this team. I want to do well, I want to help this team win a championship,” Lletget said afterward. “I’m here to create things and I’m here to add value to the team.”

Chara appeared to tie it up again in the 63rd but was offside. He broke through with his stunning goal in the 78th. Afterward, Portland coach Giovanni Savarese called it an early candidate for goal of the year.

“It gives me a lot of confidence, just starting that way and scoring. And doing a great job for the team gives you a good feeling,” Chara said. “We unfortunately didn’t get the three points but we’re happy with what we saw in the field.”

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In addition to Lletget, the Revolution’s roster includes the 2021 MLS MVP Carles Gil, as well as new additions Jozy Altidore and Omar Gonzalez. Gil, Lletget and Gonzalez started with Altidore available off the bench.

“The first half, our possession was more to keep the ball than to be a threat, yes, we had some chances,” Savarese said. “But I felt like we came more alive in the second half.”

Diego Valeri, the Portland’s longtime captain, left the Timbers in the offseason to return to his childhood club Lanus in Argentina.

The Timbers Army supporters group, known for large, coordinated displays called tifos, announced a break with tradition and had no tifo for the season opener. Instead the group donated to charities that support victims of domestic violence.

The Timbers have come under fire for their handling of domestic abuse allegations against former midfielder Andy Polo. The team terminated him earlier this month after details of a police call to his home in May 2021 came to light. Polo’s contract had been extended in December, causing many fans to question why he was retained. The league has hired an outside firm to investigate.

There was a banner at Providence Park that included the number for the national domestic violence hotline. A few fans also waived Ukrainian flags in support of that nation as it defends itself against an invasion by Russia, and a moment of silence was observed for Ukraine before the game.

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