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Portland outlasts Seattle in gripping playoff second leg

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Portland and Seattle staged a second leg befitting of their rivalry, as the Timbers knocked their rivals out of the MLS Cup Playoffs with a gripping win in Seattle early Friday.

A chaotic ending put the match in extra time, where Dairon Asprilla sent a bullet header into the back of the goal off a Diego Valeri cross to make it 4-3 on aggregate only to see a penalty make it 4-4 four minutes later.

Will Bruin hit the post with Seattle’s second penalty attempt and Jeff Attinella stopped Osvaldo Alonso on the next Seattle attempt. Stefan Frei stopped Liam Ridgewell‘s winning bid, but could only get a hand on Asprilla’s winning hit.

The triumph sets Portland up for a meeting with either Real Salt Lake or Sporting KC in the Western final.

[ MORE: Louisville City defends USL Cup title ]

The Sounders entered the match down 2-1 but holding an away goal. That meant 1-0 would be enough for them to get into the conference finals, and an awful Portland mistake put them in the catbird seat.

Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella bungled a cross and left it on the doorstep for Raul Ruidiaz, who made it 2-2 on aggregate in the 68th minute. Seattle, as it stood, was headed back to the Western finals.

Enter Sebastian Blanco.

The Argentine took a lay-off from Dairon Asprilla and hit a low ball that caught Stefan Frei in a hard place.

Portland was back in front, though the Timbers were denied a bid to close the match out via Frei’s in-tight denial of Lucas Melano.

Stoppage time made it 2-1 to Seattle, when Ruidiaz unleashed this beauty following a weak headed clearing attempt from Blanco.

The match went to extra time, and Valeri’s long cross was met at the back post by the leaping Asprilla.

The score line stayed the same for less than four minutes, as a Blanco handball sent Lodeiro to the spot and the Sounders star did not miss his chance to make it 4-4.

Ruidiaz had a goal pulled back for a handball as the match continued to deliver drama en route to kicks.

Some Timbers players celebrated after extra time, apparently thinking they advanced via away goals (away goals in extra time are no longer a tiebreaker). That’s… problematic.

Portland topples Seattle 2-1 in first playoff leg

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The Seattle Sounders knew their 2-seed meant nothing in a Cascadia matchup between two heated rivals. The Sounders took an early lead but squandered that not long after and slumped to a 2-1 defeat in the first leg of their Major League Soccer playoff matchup.

Still, the early strike could prove valuable as the Sounders head home with an away goal as Christian Roldan somehow squirted a cross through the legs of Bill Tuiloma just 10 minutes in and found Raul Ruidiaz who roofed it with the side of his foot at the near post.

[ MORE: Columbus tops NY Red Bulls 1-0 ]

That proved valuable as the Sounders struggled to contain Portland on the counter, which would prove fruitful for the hosts seven minutes later. On the run, Diego Valeri threaded in Jeremy Ebobisse who dinked it over a charging Stefan Frei. With the scoreline all tied up, Seattle continued to control possession, but coughed it up on the break again on the half-hour mark.

Valeri somehow found a gap straight down the heart of the Seattle defense and while his run was finally stopped by Chad Marshall at the penalty spot, it trickled to Sebastian Blanco who stepped past a defender onto his left foot and awkwardly skidded the ball across the face and inside the far post.

There was little of note in the second half, as Portland locked things down. Seattle maintained 56% possession throughout the match and out-passed Portland 531-425, but could only muster nine shots, three on target. The Sounders now head back home with a valuable away goal but still with work to do. In their only meeting at CenturyLink Field during the regular season, Portland took home a 3-2 win on a 74th minute Larrys Mabiala goal.

Timbers tops RSL to clinch playoffs, Galaxy now controls destiny

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The Western Conference playoff picture has become more clear after the Portland Timbers clinched a playoff spot by topping Real Salt Lake 3-0.

The victory not only secured a berth for Portland, but it also left RSL in a position of vulnerability. The LA Galaxy won at Minnesota 3-1 with Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the scoresheet, pulling within a point of RSL, who is done for the regular season, meaning the Galaxy controls its own destiny.

Portland put together a comprehensive performance, disappointing from RSL’s perspective with the playoffs on the line. 15 minutes in, Diego Valeri chipped in a free-kick and defender Larrys Mabiala made a run at the back post for the tap-in. Portland defended well for the rest of the first half, and while the visitors dominated the first part of the second half, they conceded again past the hour mark through another unlikely culprit in Diego Chara. On the counter, Chara made a storming run down the middle, and after collecting a Sebastian Blanco pass, he touched past a charging Nick Rimando and finished cooly. The third came from Blanco with three minutes to go to put the cherry on top of a solid overall performance.

Los Angeles picked up a vital three points thanks to a ruthless attack. Ibrahimovic headed home a beautiful looping cross from Rolf Feltscher right on the half-hour mark, and the Galaxy went up for good.

In the second half, a ridiculous four-minute stretch saw three goals in succession. First, Ola Kamara was denied on the doorstep by Michael Boxall, but seconds later he poked in an Ashley Cole cross at the near post for LA’s second. The third came just one minute later as Minnesota turned it over in their own defensive third, and Ibrahimovic crossed to Roman Alessandrini for an absurd volleyed finish. Minnesota got a consolation just two minutes later through Angello Rodríguez, but it wasn’t enough.

So, the playoff picture is thus: Portland is in with 54 points. RSL is currently in the playoffs, but their regular season is finished with 49 points. The Galaxy, therefore, sit below the cut line on 48 points but have a meeting with Houston next weekend for all the marbles. They need to win to advance to the playoffs, as a draw would leave them with one fewer win, the first tiebreaker.

VIDEO: Adi scores late winner in dramatic final act for Timbers

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Fanendo Adi tapped in a short-range goal during the 80th minute of his final match for Portland, and the Timbers extended their MLS unbeaten streak to 14 matches by beating the Houston Dynamo 2-1 on Saturday night.

Adi, coming off the bench earlier in the second half, finished a close-in shot that had rebounded off two teammates.

Adi, with the Timbers since 2014, is second on Portland’s career list with 54 goals. The Timbers confirmed after the match this was Adi’s final game with Portland, but didn’t disclose details of a trade.

“It’s been amazing five years. I came as a young boy, but now I’m a grown man. There comes a time in life where you move on, but the Portland Timbers are always going to be a family to me,” Adi said.

Adi, who hadn’t suited up the previous two games, entered the match in the 75th minute.

“I told my wife before the game, Adi is going to come in and score, and it’s going to be a perfect day. You can sense it. You can feel it. He was ready. In the right moment he came in and gave us the victory,” Portland coach Giovanni Savarese said.

Sebastian Blanco scored a first-half goal for Portland (9-3-7). The Timbers moved into third place in the West with 34 points.

Portland won for the ninth time during its unbeaten streak. The Timbers haven’t lost since April 8, when they dropped a 3-2 decision to Orlando City.

Romell Quioto provided the lone goal for Houston (7-8-6). The Dynamo have won just once in 10 road games this season.

The Timbers outshot Houston 19-5.

“We tried to hold on, but we didn’t keep the ball and when you don’t keep the ball and you don’t stop the players — and they have very talented players —they punished us,” Houston coach Wilmer Cabrera said.

Tied at 1-1, Portland set up the game winner when Blanco fired a pass into the middle. The ball was first shot by Andy Polo, then again off a rebound by Diego Valeri. Adi was in position for the second rebound, finishing a 5-yard shot to put the Timbers in front.

“I tried not to cry, but today the tears were almost falling down,” Adi said.

Nothing to separate Portland and 10-man LAFC

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There was entertainment value in Los Angeles FC’s potential playoff preview with the Portland Timbers on Sunday in the City of Angels, but all that arrived was a scoreless draw.

[ MORE: Atlanta 1-1 Seattle ]

Both Giovani Savarese’s Timbers and Bob Bradley‘s nickname-free expansion club remain in the West’s Top Four. PLAFC remains unbeaten at home during their maiden voyage through Major League Soccer.

Adama Diomande came close for the hosts, who finished with 10-men when Lee Nguyen went studs-up on Sebastian Blanco‘s thigh for a pretty easy red card (though it took some time for Silviu Petrescu to produce the red).