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PSA Elite made the trip north to Portland and emerged with a 3-1 win over the Portland Timbers Under 23s in the First Round of the US Open Cup on Tuesday night. Two goals from Davis Paul sandwiched Christian Ramirez’s tally to separate the two sides on the final score line in an evenly played match.

The visitors escaped two terrific first half chances from the home standing U23s as goalkeeper Trevor Whiddon brilliantly saved a Steven Evans shot in the second minute and the crossbar kept out a Mark Sherrod header in the 27th.

While the Timbers were active and enthusiastic offensively, their chances were just slightly off. Evans’ shot wide of the right post in the 44th minute was emblematic of the night for the home side. Roberto Farfan flicked a ball in the box back to Evans, whose shot had Whiddon well beaten, but so too the post.

The visitors nearly opened scoring in the 13th minute when Brent Whitfield poked in a rebound after Spencer Richey could not hold Paul’s shot. But Whitfield was ruled offside and PSA had to wait until the 24th minute for the game’s first goal. A long throw-in from Joseph Sophia reached the six-yard box where Paul headed past Richey for a 1-0 lead. In the 39th minute, Ramirez lifted the ball off the turf, from Jonathan Prieto’s pass, and fired in PSA Elite’s second goal, easily beating Richey to the top left corner.

Portland pulled a goal back in the 56th minute when Eric Miller claimed a deflection and scooted into the box, firing at the near post past Whiddon. That goal delighted the home crowd and changed the pace of the game. PSA sat in defensively, only emerging on counter attacks through Whitfield and later substitute Andrew Riemer. “When you’re forced to play a young team, you certainly want to take the opportunities when they come and not force the ball,” said PSA manager Gary Berry. Indeed, the visitors were patient as they weathered a late onslaught from the Timbers.

The Timbers’ best chance at an equalizer came in the 75th minute when Whiddon was called upon again, this time denying Sherrod at the near post. A minute later, shots from Cameron Vickers and Evans were denied by deflections as Portland filled the box with just a quarter hour to play.

Yet Paul’s influence on the game for PSA was complete when he fired in the game’s final goal. The bending, one-time shot to the top left corner came from just inside the box and put the game finally out of reach for the visitors.

Said Berry afterward, “The Timbers were super excited to be in the Open Cup and the Portland fans were right behind them. It was tough to come here and play on their turf, and they really had us on our toes.”

PSA Elite advance to play Carolina RailHawks in Cary, North Carolina next Tuesday May 22.

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