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Portland defeats Philadelphia 3-1 in opener

(AP Photo/Don Ryan)

By ANNE M. PETERSON

AP Sports Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Scottish striker Kris Boyd was succinct in describing his first Major League Soccer goal.

"The ball came in. I got my head on it and it went to the back of the net," he said.

Boyd scored the go-ahead goal and the Portland Timbers went on to win their home opener 3-1 over the Philadelphia Union on Monday night.

Boyd's goal came off Kalif Alhassan's cross in the 66th minute against Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath.

Boyd, the Scottish Premier League's all-time leading scorer, was acquired by the Timbers in the offseason. His goal came with the match tied at 1 after Gabriel Gomez's goal for Philadelphia and rookie Andrew Jean-Baptiste's equalizer earlier in the half.

Alhassan added a goal of his own in the 76th minute in the MLS opener for both teams.

Portland captain Jack Jewsbury predicted it was the first of many goals for Boyd, who had 164 goals in 296 appearances in the SPL with Kilmarnock and Rangers. He was that league's top scorer for four seasons.

"He's a guy they're going to have to watch out for whenever he's in the box," Jewsbury said.

The Timbers went 11-14-9 last year and finished out of the playoffs in their inaugural season, but they were 9-5-3 at Jeld-Wen Field where they have the support of their wildly enthusiastic supporters' group, the Timbers Army.

Philadelphia finished 11-8-15 and reached the Eastern Conference semifinals, but the team was active in the offseason, bringing in 14 players and losing 13. Among the players gone are leading scorer Sebastien Le Toux and goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon.

Like last season, the Timbers Army opened the season at home by singing the national anthem before the entire stadium lofted colored cards - small tarps actually, because of a driving rain - in a "tifo" fan display in honor of the team.

Temperatures in the low 40s accompanied the rain when the nationally televised game started. The wind affected the trajectory of the ball at times when it was airborne.

MacMath had a strong first half, fending off five Timbers' shots, and the match was scoreless at the break.

The Union got a scare in the 24th minute when defender Carlos Valdes went down after a collision with Boyd. A stretcher was brought on to the field, but Valdes walked off and was able to return.

"I think that the first half was a good thing for us," said Union coach Peter Nowak. "I think the crowd does do a good job of going for 90 minutes. I don't think we should be affected by it. I just think we should do better on our pressure."

Philadelphia midfielder Gomez's hard kick from out in front of the box appeared to be helped by Jean-Baptiste before it sailed past goalkeeper Troy Perkins in the 51st minute. Originally ruled an own goal, after the match it was determined that it was given to Gomez.

But the Timbers evened it in the 54th minute when Jean-Baptiste's header was bobbled by MacMath and bounced into the goal.

Jean-Baptiste was selected with the eighth overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft this year out of Connecticut. He got the start Monday night because defender Futty Danso fractured a bone in his left foot during training and will be out four to six weeks.

After the match, Jean-Baptiste had not heard that the own goal had been reversed.

"It's a mistake I've made before," he said. "The first thought that I had was `I've got to get it back.'"

Jean-Baptiste was star-struck by the atmosphere at the match, which attracted 20,438 fans, a sellout. The Timbers have proven so popular in Portland that seating capacity at Jeld-Wen was increased by some 2,000 seats this season.

"It's pretty exciting. I wasn't expecting that many people," Jean-Baptiste said. "It felt good playing in front of that crowd."

Boyd's goal put Portland in front.

"I'm hoping that he can go on, stay healthy, go on to score a lot of goals and become a legend here," Timbers coach John Spencer said. "He definitely has the goal-scoring ability to do that, that's why he's here."

Jewsbury assisted on both Jean-Baptiste and Alhassan's goals.

Another Timbers offseason acquisition, Franck Songo'o of Cameroon, who played last season for Spanish side Albacete. The 24-year-old injured his right knee in training and did not play.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber was at the game.

Updated March 13, 2012

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