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Timbers down Norwich City 1-0

The Portland Timbers could not be playing much better soccer.

On Wednesday evening, the Timbers took the pitch in an international friendly

against Norwich City, a well-respected First Division side from the English Premier League.

And the Timbers did not flinch against a club with far more history than them.

Portland was stellar on defense and got a 52nd- minute goal from Jose Valencia to take a 1-0 victory against the Canaries.

It would be a mistake to make too big of a deal out of the Timbers' win before an announced crowd of 18,553. Norwich City is in its preseason and is nowhere near the quality it will be once EPL play starts.

Still, the Timbers were playing with several reserves in the lineup, and the victory was just another feather in their cap in what is turning out to be a remarkable season.

“They are in preseason, so we have to keep that in perspective,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said. “We’re in midseason form. But, at the end of the day, they’re

a Premiership team. It says a lot about our club that we were able to get a result. Especially considering we had six regulars who didn’t even dress. It shows our depth, and it shows our quality from Player 1-26.”

In the ninth minute, midfielder Kalif Alhassan blew not one, but two golden opportunities to put the Timbers up a goal.

Alhassan received a cross in the 6-yard box and whiffed as he tried to redirect the pass into the goal.

The ball bounced around between several Norwich City defenders and miraculously came back to Alhassan, who proceeded to shank his second chance, sending the ball off the right post.

After the near-miss, Norwich City began controlling the match with mesmerizing excellence on the ball.

For all their possession- oriented offense, the Timbers had difficulty keeping the ball or winning it back when they lost it.

Still in preseason form, though, Norwich City did not seem to have enough quality in and around the box. The Canaries' crosses were rarely crisp, and their shots were just off.

By the 20th minute, the contest became more even. When Norwich City moved into the attacking third, the Timbers' back line held firm. The Canaries' defenders did the same at the other end.

In the 38th minute, Timbers goalkeeper Milos Kocic came up with an out-of-this-world save to keep the score nil-nil.

From 30 yards, Norwich City midfielder Nathan Redmond sent a laser at the goal. Kocic jumped, extended and swatted the ball with his right hand. The ball was traveling so fast that it still ricocheted off the crossbar.

Without Kocic’s redirection, though, the ball would have gone in and could well have torn through the back of the net.

“I saw it a bit late,” Kocic said. “It started dipping. I just put my hand on it, and luckily it hit the crossbar. It was a good strike.”

At halftime, Norwich City had taken seven shots to the Timbers' five. Both clubs had put three on frame.

The second half was not more than a minute old when Valencia narrowly missed breaking the deadlocked score.

He got the ball just outside the 18-yard box, on the right side. He put a bullet at the goal and had Norwich City keeper Carlos Nash beat to the near post. The ball bounced off the right post, though.

Valencia made up for his missed opportunity in the 52nd minute, and Alhassan redeemed himself for his previous misses.

Alhassan took the ball down the middle and made a short pass to Valencia inside the 18-yard box.

As soon as the pass reached him, Valencia fired, sending a low, rolling shot toward the right post. The ball got beneath the hands of Nash and the Timbers were up 1-0.

“I’m very happy for the goal,” said Valencia, who speaks limited English.

“Norwich is a good team — the Premier League. I will work for more goals.”

The Timbers continued playing an even match, possessing the ball as much as they could and falling back quickly on defense when Norwich City got the ball at its feet.

Norwich City finished the match with 12 shots, one more than the Timbers. The Canaries put five shots on goal, while Portland put six shots on goal.

The Timbers will play again, with much more on the line, Saturday night on the road against MLS rival San Jose.