Sebastian Blanco

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Fernandez scores on debut to snare Portland point in Texas

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Brian Fernandez scored on debut to lead the Portland Timbers in a 1-1 draw with the Dynamo in Houston on Wednesday.

Portland moves to 3-6-2 on the year, while Houston remains fourth despite moving onto 20 points.

Houston led on a 40th minute goal from Mauro Manotas, and Timbers boss Giovani Savarese turned to his new record signing in the 65th minute.

[ MORE: Derby County reaches playoff final ]

A dozen minutes later, Sebastian Blanco hit this dime to Fernandez, who arrived from Necaxa last week.

The 24-year-old Argentine picked up where he left off in Liga MX, where he scored 18 times in 32 matches.

Timbers add serious firepower with Fernandez, Liga MX second-leading scorer

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The Portland Timbers took a big step to solving some of its goal-scoring problems with a major signing on Monday.

The Timbers announced that it had signed Argentine forward Brian Fernandez as a Designated Player on a transfer from Liga MX side Necaxa. Fernandez finished the regular season of the Liga MX Clausura campaign with 12 goals in the 17-match half season, good to second best in the league. He has 16 goals in 30 league matches since joining Necaxa last summer. Per the Athletic and reports in Mexico, the Timbers are paying a transfer fee of around $10-12 million for Fernandez’s services.

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“We are very pleased to welcome Brian Fernández to our team,” Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese said in a statement. “Brian is a player who possesses many different attacking qualities that can cause issues for the opposition. He has shown the ability to unlock defenses and score goals in a variety of ways throughout his career, and, while we view him as a forward with our immediate group, his versatility and ability to play in different positions and systems gives us further tactical flexibility and options.”

Fernandez, who has played in his native Argentina, Chile, and even half a season at Metz in Ligue 1, brings a hot form and scoring ability to a Timbers team in need of goals. Although it can be partially excused by starting the season on the road, the Timbers have just 13 goals this season in 10 games, and more often than not, Diego Valeri, the playmaking maestro in attacking midfield, has finished the season as the team’s leading scorer.

Players such as Fanendo Adi, Darren Mattocks and Jack McInerney have come and gone, and while Sebastian Blanco appears to have the talent to succeed in MLS, he hasn’t been a consistent goalscorer. That necessitated the signing of Fernandez.

The signing also comes just a day ahead of the MLS Transfer Window first stage closing until the second stage opens in early July.

MLS roundup: Atlanta grabs late win, Sporting KC completes wild comeback

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Julian Gressel scored in the 74th minute and Atlanta United won for just the second time this season and first in front of the home fans, beating the Colorado Rapids 1-0 at Mercedes Benz Stadium.

Darlington Nagbe snatched the ball off substitute Nicolas Mezquida in a dangerous position and dribbled all the way to the byline before sending a cross to Gressel positioned right at the near post, and the German squeezed it in past Tim Howard for the game’s only goal. Colorado, meanwhile, was held to just six shots and Brad Guzan kept them off the scoresheet for just his second clean sheet of the season. Atlanta nearly had another in injury time to kill off the game, but Hector Villalba’s curler came off the far post.

Sporting KC, meanwhile, looked to be heading to another defeat, having won just one of its previous five matches and without the recently injured Roger Espinoza, but a pair of 2nd half red cards for the visiting New England Revolution changed the game and saw the hosts come from 3-1 down to draw 4-4.

The first half was all New England as Juan Caciedo scored a first-half brace and the visitors led 3-1 at the break, having gone well in front despite less than 30% possession. Sporting KC looked lost, with just one first-half shot on target despite all the possession, and having shipped seven goals over the previous game and a half.

That all turned in the second half after Brandon Bye was sent off for a last-man foul in the 55th minute. Bye was already on a yellow, but the referee issued a straight red after a lazily hit back-pass came his way and he took down a charging Gerso. That turned the game and both Krisztian Nemeth and Felipe Gutierrez bagged braces for the hosts before it was all over. With Jalil Anibaba also sent off for New England deep in the match, Sporting KC pushed for a winner but nothing came and they were forced to settle for a draw. The draw is disappointing for Sporting KC in a vacuum as their winless run pushes to four matches, but it should serve as a confidence booster moving forward without Espinoza for the foreseeable future.

Toronto FC fell further off the top of the Eastern Conference as they dropped a 2-1 result to the Portland Timbers on Jeremy Ebobisse’s 70th minute winner. The U.S. international got between Justin Morrow and Chris Mavinga and dove to connect with Sebastian Blanco‘s cross, acrobatically heading it in from close range. That proved the decisive moment after Jonathan Osorio and Bill Tuiloma cancelled each other out with first-half goals just two minutes apart.

The win pushed Portland up to 10th as they picked up their second win in a row, but for Toronto, they fell four points off the pace at the top of the Eastern Conference, although they still have two games in hand on the rest of the pack.

Full MLS roundup:

NYCFC 1-1 Orlando City
Toronto FC 1-2 Portland Timbers
FC Dallas 0-0 San Jose Earthquakes
Vancouver Whitecaps 1-1 Philadelphia Union
Atlanta United 1-0 Colorado Rapids
New York Red Bulls 1-0 FC Cincinnati

Houston Dynamo 2-0 Columbus Crew
Sporting KC 1-3 New England Revolution

Timbers off the mark at Columbus with first win of the season

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The Portland Timbers are finally off the scheid in the 2019 season, earning a road win at a quality opponent, downing Columbus 2-0 at MAPFRE Stadium.

It took a half-hour for the breakthrough but in the 31st minute Larrys Mabiala got his head to a set-piece delivery and powered it in past the near post. Zack Steffan got his hands to the ball but it was from close enough range that he couldn’t muster the power to stop the effort.

That wasn’t it for the Timbers before halftime as they doubled the lead four minutes later. Sebastian Blanco sent in a low, slicing cross from the left flank into the center of the box, and with Artur slow on the close out, Jeremy Ebobisse latched on and buried it into the back of the net.

After the break, Pedro Santos brought Columbus back within one in the 69th minute with an ambitious chip that caught Jeff Attinella way off his line, but it wasn’t enough. Jorge Moreira finished things off in injury time, blasting a howitzer into the top of the net for a 3-1 lead and all three points. The win lifted Portland off the bottom of the Western Conference, on four points to push them to 10th. Columbus, meanwhile, fails to take the opportunity to move top of the Eastern Conference, still sitting fourth, level with three other teams on 13 points.

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.