Diego Valeri's gorgeous volley lifts Timbers past Nashville SC (video)

Diego Valeri celebrates after scoring the only goal in the Timbers' 1-0 victory over Nashville SC at Providence Park. (Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports)

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Timbers won their first game of the 2020 season the same way they’ve won a lot of games over the years: Diego Valeri.

The Argentine playmaker’s splendid first-half volley propelled Portland past Nashville SC 1-0 at Providence Park.

Valeri sliced home his right-footed finish in the 12th minute with expert technique:

He found himself alone for a number of reasons. Earlier in the sequence, Jorge Villafaña kept Nashville pinned back by aggressively heading a clearance forward to Yimmi Chará, whose wayward ball out wide forced Villafaña into a tame cross.

The clearance sailed to Andy Polo, however, whose header bounded right back to Valeri. Nashville’s Eric Miller kept him onside after being forced to deal with Villafaña’s work.

On the whole, the Timbers’ night was hardly so sharp. Nashville’s Aníbal Godoy forced a fine fingertip save from Timbers keeper Steve Clark midway through the second half, and Walker Zimmerman buzzed the opposite post with a header in stoppage time that went just wide.

It was a tragic week for Nashville, with a tornado hitting middle Tennessee and killing 24 people early Tuesday. Two Nashville SC players, David Accam and Daniel Ríos, suffered significant damage to their properties. Both teams will auction commemorative patches worn during Sunday’s game to raise funds for tornado relief, and the Timbers offered a ticket deal for the match with part of the proceeds going to the same cause.

Nashville SC has looked good for spurts of its first two MLS matches, and has plenty of experience on the roster. But the expansion club has lost to both Atlanta United and now Portland – which, granted, is not the easiest way to enter the league.

The Timbers, meanwhile, have much room for improvement but also three points.

They also have Diego Valeri. That helps.

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