PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland's Erik Edwardson and Benji Michel each found the back of the net and Rey Ortiz capped the scoring with a world-class goal as the Pilots opened the WCC campaign with a 3-1 win over the No. 18 Pacific Tigers on Saturday night at Merlo Field. Portland was also solid on defense and senior goalkeeper Paul Christensen produced three saves on the night.
Edwardson scored the first goal, which was set up by Billy Garton and Ortiz. Garton found Ortiz with a perfectly weighted ball, and Ortiz controlled it with a deft first touch before sending in a brilliant ball near the far post. That's where Edwardson elevated and finished into the top left corner with a header. It's the second goal of the season for Edwardson, and Ortiz tallies his 10th assist as the Pilots took a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute.
From there, the Pilots created several chances, and both Kris Reaves and Benji Michel hit the frame as the game remained 1-0. Meanwhile Christensen preserved the lead when he made a stellar kick save off a ball that was flicked on by Tariq Branche from point-blank range on a cross sent in from the left.
Michel then collected his ninth goal of the season to push the Portland lead to 2-0 in the 37th minute. Center back Lionel Mills found Michel with a long ball from the back, and Michel chested it down inside the 18 before beating the keeper. Michel entered the weekend sixth in the nation in goals.
Branch would then hit the crossbar before the half as the score remained 2-0.
The Tigers pulled one back early in the second half, and it was Branch who provided the strike. Bob Groenendijk played a short pass to Branch near the top of the 18, and the forward took a touch around the Portland defender before hitting a shot just inside the far post.
Michel would rattle the woodwork again in the 66th minute, and Pacific keeper Curtis Goldsmith made a clutch save on a shot off the foot of Ortiz moments later.
Goldsmith wasn't as fortunate in the 77th minute when Ortiz provided perhaps the goal of the year for the Pilots. On a free kick from 20 yards out, Ortiz hit a beautifully struck bending ball that curved through traffic and made it past a diving Goldsmith and into the side of the net. It's the fourth goal of the year for Ortiz, who is third in the nation in assists.
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Portland would close out the game to seal the win, improving to 6-5-0 on the year and 1-0-0 in the WCC. Pacific drops to 8-3-0 and 0-1-0 in the conference.
The Tigers were the third straight ranked opponent for the Pilots, who dominated No. 9 and previously unbeaten Western Michigan 4-1 last Friday before succumbing to No. 10 Virginia 2-1 in overtime on Monday night in Charlottesville.
The Pilots next travel San Diego for their first WCC road contest next Friday night. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.