Sporting KC 2-3 Portland: Blanco stunner helps Portland to finals

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The home side dominated the opening 45 minutes, but were downed in part by an absolutely stunning goal as Sebastian Blanco‘s incredible long-distance snipe helped send 5th-seeded Portland into the MLS Cup final after a 3-2 second-leg victory over top seed Sporting KC. The victory followed a 0-0 result in the first leg from Portland that left Sporting KC vulnerable to the away goals rule, and that they were, with the third goal from Diego Valeri only coming deep into stoppage time with Kansas City pouring forward knowing they needed another with the score level at 2-all.

The game was a tale of two halves, as Portland was snuffed out in the first half as Kansas City proved the better team. After the break, the visitors turned the game on its head, with Blanco’s stunner the start. Diego Valeri provided the second, cancelling out a pair from Daniel Salloi and Gerso.

Sporting KC was in control across the opening 20 minutes, and earned an opener as a result. With four shots on target already on the board, the hosts took advantage of a trio of defensive mistakes by Portland, with Salloi capping off a scrappy finish. Johnny Russell looked to get around Liam Ridgewell down the right, and the Portland defender accidentally tapped the ball towards the middle of the box. That allowed Diego Rubio to feed Salloi, and his cross to the far post left Jeff Attinella in no-man’s land and saw Salloi finish it off past Zarek Valentin hoping to guard the line.

KC continued its dominant play, and looked to have a second as Salloi headed in off a corner, but it was whistled out for a foul on Ike Opara who attempted to back down Attinella as the ball floated into the far corner.

Diego Valeri had a hamstring scare in the 26th minute, and while he eventually came back on, Portland hardly saw a touch of the ball past the half-hour mark. KC had another goal ruled out in first-half stoppage time as Rubio slammed home a one-on-one finish after Russell fed him through, but the flag correctly went up to pull it back. Salloi was injured in the buildup, drawing a yellow card for David Guzman and leaving the goalscorer in a heap.

After halftime, Portland still needed a moment to get them back into the game, and they got that moment. Blanco unleashed the goal of the playoffs, a right-footed curler with space at the top of the box.

Portland took that moment of brilliance and built on it, flipping the game upside-down and earning a second, shocking the home fans and finishing things off. Valeri was the man to finish it off, with his head after Tim Meila had tapped the ball into the air as Jeremy Ebobisse looked to be through on goal.

On the hour mark, fans at Children’s Mercy Park began to throw trash onto the field, at which point the referee pulled the players off the field momentarily. Kansas City manager Peter Vermes was livid at those in attendance, screaming at fans to cut it out and let them finish the game. They returned to the field a few minutes later, and referee Mark Geiger was then in the spotlight as he awarded KC a free-kick inches outside the left edge of the box after Zarek Valentin fouled Gerso Fernandes, with the home side screaming for a penalty.

The game picked up in pace as Sporting KC needed two goals to advance and the panic set in. A 78th minute long-ball for substitute Gerso but was just out of reach with fellow sub Krisztian Nemeth ready to pounce. They’d draw back level with nine minutes to go as Gerso was the man to even it up . That ignited the game as it charged towards full-time, but it also brought sloppiness as KC became more desperate. Despite nine minutes of stoppage time, they had little left in the tank. A charging Gerso had the best chance, but obliterated the ball miles over the bar. The game was killed off as the Timbers caught the hosts poured forward, and on the break with nobody back, Chara found Valeri free for the third goal.