PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Diego Valeri scored in the 13th minute and Donovan Ricketts earned his 10th shutout of the season, leading the Portland Timbers to a 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids on Friday night.
Valeri scored for the third straight match as the Timbers (11-5-13) moved one point ahead of the Rapids (12-9-9) for third place in the Western Conference.
''The game wasn't pretty,'' Portland head coach Caleb Porter said. ''We need to be able to win those games. I thought we were very professional how we managed the second half, especially. I continue to see a very positive evolution.''
On the game's only scoring play, Rodney Wallace leapt to head a Colorado clearance back towards goal, and Valeri raced onto the loose ball and chipped a shot from 20 yards out over Rapids goalkeeper Clinton Irwin for his eighth goal of the season.
Valeri continues to be a driving force for the Timbers, despite recent injury issues. Porter noted the quality of the goal, while acknowledging the need to manage Valeri's playing time.
''That (goal) was class, and that's what he is, a class player,'' Porter said. ''This was an important game and we got a good 75 minutes out of him. I hope he's still OK, he got a little tight at the end. Hopefully we saved enough in the tank for him to go the next game.''
Colorado nearly tied it 25 minutes later, when Portland's Pa-Modou Kah and Mamadou Danso both missed on their attempts to clear a pass, allowing the ball to fall to Edson Buddle. However, the Rapids' forward could only manage to blast his shot off the goalpost.
Despite the loss, Colorado head coach Oscar Pareja believes his team will make the playoffs.
''Of course,'' he said. ''With the team you saw on the field today, of course. I saw a team full of character.''
Both teams next face conference rivals for playoff positions. Portland will host Los Angeles on Sept. 29, while Colorado has two weeks to prepare before hosting Western Conference-leading Seattle on Oct. 5.