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"Cursed" Wenger breaks the spell

Unlucky winger Andrew Wenger scores his first of 2015 as the Philadelphia Union rout the Portland Timbers 3-0.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The curse has been lifted.

Propelled by a slump-busting strike from Andrew Wenger and a rare brace from Vincent Nogueira, the Union defeated the Portland Timbers for the first time in franchise history.

"It's been a long time," said Wenger after the game. "I thought maybe I really was cursed there for a little bit."

Coming into the 2015 MLS Season, Andrew Wenger's upward trajectory was the talk of town. The winger came on strong in the second half of the 2014, memorably destroying then-Seattle fullback DeAndre Yedlin in the U.S. Open Cup Final. Despite being touted as a breakout candidate, Wenger fell flat on his face to start his first full season with the Union.

In the first 1388 minutes of his 2015 MLS campaign, Andrew Wenger failed to score a goal. He did plenty of things like this and this, but up until last night, he hadn't done this.

It was a wonderful way for Wenger to get back on the scoresheet, taking every inch of space that Portland's defense foolishly gave him. His confident finish from 20 yards out was reminiscent of the Andrew Wenger from last year,

"I know a lot of people wanted me to bail out and move on, and not continue to believe in what Andrew does," Curtin said. "I still see the guy from preseason and the end of last year, and a play like that could be the difference that sets him on a hot streak."

Wenger was grateful for his coach's confidence, knowing that his play had made it tough for his coach to keep him on the team sheet.

"I gotta thank Jim. He helped me through that and stuck by me," Wenger said. "I tried to repay him in little ways and defend a little more than usual and make up for not producing statistically."

Wenger's goal in the 69th paved the way for two more, as a depleted Timbers defense finally succumbed to the Union's onslaught.

In the 71st minute, Vincent Nogueira went from box to box on the second goal, helping to start the break and putting himself in position to finish it. Nogueira floated into the box as Cristian Maidana received a through near the endline. Maidana cut the ball back to his teammate, who hit it home from 12 yards. The goal shined a light on Portland's tired legs and weary minds, as the Timbers defenders collapsed on goal and failed to put a body on Nogueira.

Eleven minutes later, Maidana and Nogueira combined again for the third and final goal of the night. The pair's sequence at the top of the box made two of Portland's more experienced players--Jack Jewsbury and Liam Ridgewell--look like traffic cones. There was still work to do after Maidana put Nogueira through; however, as the Frenchman scored from a tight angle.

"He is able to do whatever he wants tactically and technically," said Nogueira when asked about Maidana on Saturday.

While they scored at will in the second half, the ball did everything but cross the line in the first.

CJ Sapong and Sebastien Le Toux looked likely to produce a goal in the first 45 minutes, coming close on multiple occasions.

Right off the bat, a Sapong flick-on put Wenger in on goal, but goalkeeper Andrew Weber came out and halted a first minute blitz.

Sapong's target play created another opportunity just moments later, when Sebastien Le Toux picked up a ball from the striker and fired it just past the far post.

Le Toux wound back the clock in the 13th minute, hitting a ferocious shot towards goal from the top of the arc. The effort looked goal-bound, but it slammed the crossbar and cannoned out.

Near the end of the half, Sapong had his own encounter with the bar. The ball fell to him in the box as Portland failed to clear, but he placed his shot just a bit high, as it too bounced off the crossbar.

As a team, the Union turned in an impressive defensive performance. The Timbers struggled to create chances all night, and when they did, a timely step from a Union defender squashed the movement. Fabinho and Brian Carroll were responsible for more than their fair share of these. Though they were two of the oldest players on the field, Fabinho and Carroll were the primary defensive forces on the night.

Of note: In some strange, completely unexpected reversal, the Timbers shifted their game plan to avoid Fabinho, not target him. Portland tilted their play toward the Brazilian full back in the first half, as Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri inhabited the Fabinho Zone for much of the first 45 minutes. Fabinho didn't take kindly to his visitors. The five-foot-seven left back bested six-foot-four Adi in the air on three occasions, and he didn't give Diego Valeri much space to work magic. In the second half, Adi and Valeri took their chances with Ray Gaddis.

The Union will take on AFC Bournemouth in a friendly on Tuesday, before traveling to Toronto on Saturday. Maurice Edu will not be available for that one, as he picked up his second suspension due to yellow card accumulation. Eric Ayuk will return to the side after serving a one-game suspension following a red card.