Diego Valeri scored twice, the second when Portland was down to 10 men, as the Timbers won their first match of the MLS Cup Playoffs with a 2-1 defeat of FC Dallas in Texas on Wednesday.
Larrys Mabiala was shown a red card in the 58th minute for the Timbers, and Matt Hedges scored in stoppage time for the hosts’ lone goal.
For Valeri, the goals were his third and fourth in MLS Cup Playoff action, and his 76th and 77th as a Timber.
Portland will face Sporting KC if LAFC beats Real Salt Lake on Thursday, or Seattle if Real wins.
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Reto Ziegler looked to have pushed Dallas in front, but the 15th minute goal was overturned by VAR for offside.
Valeri’s goal couldn’t be overturned, though perhaps the refs would’ve liked to sneak a look at the replay just for entertainment’s sake.
The match headed to half 1-0, with Diego Chara and Carlos Gruezo shown yellow cards for a scuffle before the break.
That was a prelude to a straight red 13 minutes into the second half, albeit not one for brawling. Mabiala was shown off as last man back for a takedown of Dominique Badji.
Portland would have to make it a half-hour plus with a one-goal lead and 10 men on the pitch, and they would thanks to hard work from Jeremy Ebobisse to set up Valeri for his second.
ATLANTA (AP) Julian Gressel tied it in the 56th minute and Atlanta United held on for a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on Sunday.
A loose ball deflection off defender Larrys Mabiala bounced into Gressel’s path and he pounced on it with a right-footed volley. Atlanta (10-3-4) stayed atop the MLS standings and extended its unbeaten streak to five games.
Mabiala opened the scoring in the 32nd minute. Samuel Armenteros was the first to get a touch with a left-footed stab on Diego Valeri’s free kick. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan blocked it out, but Mabiala headed home the rebound and Portland took the early lead.
The Timbers (6-3-5) extended their unbeaten run to nine.
The game in 100 words (or less): A pair of first half penalty shouts, one taken back and another not given, were the stories of the frame as both Houston and Portland were denied attempts from the spot. More concerning for Portland was the pre-half injury to Diego Chara, who appeared to suffer a non-contact leg injury. The Timbers were on the back foot for plenty of the second half, calling upon goalkeeper Jeff Attinella several times, though the introduction of Jeremy Ebobisse at least temporarily gave them some life. Plenty of time on social media was spent on Houston’s turf, which has not had kind hurricane, soccer, and football seasons. The second leg is Nov. 5 at what will be a raucous Providence Park.
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The moments that mattered
31′ — Houston penalty overturned — There’s good debate as to whether VAR should’ve been called into this bang-bang call, but Houston’s chance for a first half lead from the spot was taken back when it was ruled Alberth Elis was not fouled by Portland’s Larrys Mabiala.
42′ — No penalty given to Portland — Why wasn’t VAR called upon here, where Dynamo goalkeeper Tyler Deric certainly appears to scythe down Portland’s Darren Mattocks.
56′ — Forget away goals, just keep it clean — Jeff Attinella was under fire in the second half. Similar to Alex Bono in the other Monday first leg, the Timbers keeper was a big part of the away effort.
Man of the Match: Attinella.