Portland Timbers

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RSL knocks out Portland to reach West semifinals (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): Real Salt Lake outlasted the Portland Timbers in a constantly changing winter’s climate at altitude at Rio Tinto Stadium to book their place in the Western Conference semifinals, where they’ll visit the Seattle Sounders. A massive amount of rain and sleet fell throughout the first half, followed by a brief period of heavy snow, followed by clear(er) skies more conducive to actually playing soccer. Damir Kreilach opened the scoring in the 28th minute, but the visitors drew level barely 60 seconds into the second half.

Everyone had braced themselves for extra time, but Jefferson Savarino played the part of hero in the 87th minute when he slotted home past Steve Clark from a tough angle.

The career of Nick Rimando, the all-time record holder for essentially every goalkeeping statistic who will retire at the end of the 2019 season, is extended by at least one more game.

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased for Pulisic,” praises subs in Chelsea win ]

What did we learn?

  • Slow start leaves Portland an uphill battle: To say that Portland started this game slowly would be the understatement of the season.

After all that, it took Portland 37 seconds to register a shot in the second half. The ensuing corner kick wound up in the back of the net.

  • Portland should re-sign Valeri. End: It doesn’t matter whether the sides are hung up on money or length of contract — heck, even if he wants full control of the club’s roster as next technical director — it simply doesn’t matter. Diego Valeri is the (MLS) Portland Timbers; he is their best player in their MLS era; he is still their best player in 2019. Valeri didn’t play the first 63 minutes of this game, and Portland managed all of four shots in that time. They equaled that number in the first seven minutes Valeri was on the field. If you look up “difference maker” in the dictionary, it will simply read Valeri, Diego.

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Man of the match: Damir Kreilach

Goalscorers: Kreilach (28′), Asprilla (47′), Savarino (87′)

MLS Playoffs Preview: 1st round kicks off on Saturday

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After a two-week break, MLS is back, and with some outstanding matchups as the first round of the playoffs kicks off on Saturday.

Here’s a closer look at Saturday’s matchups in the Western Conference and Eastern Conference.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]


2. Atlanta United v. 7. New England Revolution — Saturday, 1 p.m. ET

Atlanta United begins its title defense against the most successful coach in MLS history, Bruce Arena.

Atlanta United heads into the match at home a bit shorthanded. Miles Robinson suffered a left hamstring strain while on international duty with the U.S. Men’s National Team, leaving veteran centerback Michael Parkhurst to start alongside Leandro Gonzalez Pires. There’s also some questions over whether Ezequiel Barco and Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez will start together in midfield.

All that being said, Atlanta is still one of the best teams in MLS and as long as they have Josef Martinez, they’ll be a threat to make a deep run in the playoffs. The Revs have been a revelation since Bruce Arena took over in May, and no one knows the MLS playoffs more than he. Carles Gil and Gustavo Bou have been terrific this summer for the Revs while the defense, anchored by centerbacks Andrew Farrell and Michael Mancienne and 25-year-old goalkeeper Matt Turner have kept opponents off the board.

Atlanta certainly has the edge here, especially at home, but never count out a Bruce Arena team.

2. Seattle Sounders v. 7. FC Dallas — Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

Unlike in previous years, the Seattle Sounders never needed to make a patented late-season push to make it into the playoffs. This time, the Sounders were solid throughout, especially thanks to a start that included five wins in six games. With Jordan Morris in peak form and Roman Torres and Kim Kee-Hee patrolling the middle of the backline, Seattle sure looks like an MLS Cup contender. Of course, they’d have to get past LAFC first, no small task.

For FC Dallas, in a way, they’re just happy to be here. It seems like forever, but was less than a year ago when club legend Oscar Pareja left for the Club Tijuana manager spot. In his place was local soccer legend and former FC Dallas academy director Luchi Gonzalez, and with a mostly young squad of players, Gonzalez has proven he could guide them to the playoffs. It doesn’t hurt though that one of the few veterans, Zdenek “Cobra” Ondrášek, has been on fire the last two months and just scored for the Czech Republic against England. The Sounders should take care of business at home, but Jesus Ferreira and Paxton Pomykal can create something out of nothing and could make Saturday’s match interesting/

4. Toronto FC v. 5. DC United — Saturday, 6 p.m. ET

With the regular season concluded and the start of single-elimination matches, we’re on the verge of saying goodbye to Wayne Rooney at any moment, and it could come as early as Saturday.

Thanks to a win and some other favorable results, Toronto FC jumped up in the standings and earned a home playoff match. It doesn’t hurt that it’s been very solid to close out the season, going unbeaten in its last 10 matches – though to be fair, that span only included four wins. Worryingly for TFC is that striker Jozy Altidore didn’t practice on Thursday after missing the international break with yet another muscle injury. However, his Canadian international teammates Jonathan Osorio, Liam Fraser, and Richie Laryea are returning to the club side on a high after beating the U.S.

For D.C. it’s been an up and down last few weeks. They picked up huge wins over Portland and Seattle in the final two months of the season, only to settle for scoreless draws against the porous New York Red Bulls and abject horror show in FC Cincinnati. As always, there will be plenty of pressure on Rooney to produce some magic, and his side will need it if they want to keep their season alive. Toronto, playing at home, has the edge here.

3. Real Salt Lake v. 6. Portland Timbers — Saturday, 10 p.m. ET

Mike Petke was fired by Real Salt Lake in mid-August after serving a two-week suspension for berating the referee – and saying some unacceptable terms – after a Leagues Cup game in July. In his place, interim coach Freddy Juarez has done quite well with the squad, winning seven games in the final three months of the season to cruise into a top-three place and earn a home game in the playoffs.

Former Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers defender Nedum Onuoha has been a rock at the back alongside youngster Justin Glad, and RSL may have the most underrated attack in the league. Albert Rusnak, Damir Kreilach and Jefferson Savarino have all been brilliant at points this season. If the trio put it together, RSL could be a dark horse for the title.

The Timbers beat expectations a year ago as Giovanni Savarese led his team to another final – his fourth straight final as a coach. It will be an incredible achievement if they make it this time around. Portland has elite offensive capabilities when everyone is firing on all cylanders. Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri, and even Dairon Asprilla can create moments of magic, while Jeremy Ebobisse has had a breakout season with 11 goals, though he’s missed a few he’ll want back. The issue is the team defensively, and they’ll have to be on their game to slow to RSL’s front three on the road.

Of course, the Timbers did win both matchups against RSL this season, so even on the road, they should be confident they can get it done again.

Portland’s Fernandez voluntarily enters MLS substance abuse program

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Portland Timbers forward Brian Fernandez has left the playoff-bound club to voluntarily enter Major League Soccer’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH).

Fernandez came to Portland with a history of issues, and he told Ole that he had not relapsed but was going through a difficult time in his life and entered the program to avoid backsliding.

[ MORE: Selecting an MLS Best XI ]

Portland said in a statement, “Our number one priority is Brian’s emotional and physical well-being. Our thoughts are with him.”

In 23 matches with Portland across all competitions, Fernandez has 15 goals and two assists and is a Designated Player.

It’s unclear whether the Argentine will be back with the club before it begins life as the West’s No. 6 seed in the MLS Cup Playoffs, but obviously there are more important things at play for Fernandez.

2019 MLS Cup playoffs bracket in full

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With Decision Day in the rear view mirror, the 2019 MLS Cup playoffs bracket is all set.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Round 1 action starts on October 19-20, following the international break. Just days later, first seeds NYCFC and LAFC join the playoffs as the Conference Semifinals take place.

On October 29-30, the Conference Finals will be played, which will decide what two teams will feature in the 2019 MLS Cup final on November 10.

Below is the MLS playoff bracket in full. Who will go the farthest?

Decision Day Recap: Vela breaks record; Dallas, Timbers clinch playoffs; Howard, Beasley play final game

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MLS Decision Day is behind us, and the league has a new single season goalscoring king and a complete lineup for the MLS Cup playoffs.

One goal short of breaking Josef Martinez’s record set last season, Carlos Vela erupted for a hat trick in LAFC’s 3-1 win over the Colorado Rapids on Decision Day, lifting the single season goalscoring record to 34 goals.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

In 31 games, LAFC’s captain recorded a total of 34 goals and 15 assists, an average of 1.62 goals plus assists per game.The Mexican finished four goals above LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic (30) and seven above former record holder Martinez (27). In other words, the 30-year-old placed his foot firmly on the pedal and never let go.

Following the game, Bob Bradley, as expected, was full of praise for the Mexican, who more than doubled his goal count of 14 last season and was crucial in the team’s historic season, which saw them lift the Supporter’s Shield and set the most points in a single season.

Some may say it’s up for debate (it’s really not), but Vela’s season should be considered as the league’s best ever.

FC Dallas, Portland Timbers clinch spot in MLS Cup playoff field

In convincing fashion, FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers punched their tickets into the the MLS Cup playoffs.

In Frisco, specifically, first-year coach Luchi Gonzalez and company took the “win and your in” motto to heart, drilling a helpless Sporting Kansas City 6-0. Every player in Dallas’ front four bagged goals, with defender Matt Hedges contributing one of his own in the 12th minute.

Over in Portland, the Timbers sent Matias Almeyda and the San Jose Earthquakes packing, edging past them 3-1 with to second-half goals from Dairon Asprilla and Sebastian Blanco.

After conceding a goal in the 29th minute, the Quakes responded within 10 minutes when Chris Wondolowski header home his 15th goal of the season. It wasn’t enough for the Black-and-Blue, however, as a ghost of the past hunted them once again: second-half meltdowns.

After placing as high as second in the Western Conference over the summer, the Quakes ended their season on a six-game losing streak and four points short of the cut.

Tim Howard, DaMarcus Beasley say goodbye to the beautiful game

Decision Day also saw the illustrious careers of Tim Howard and DaMarcus Beasley come to a close – two U.S. soccer legends and trailblazers.

Howard hangs up the boots after a 22-year journey that saw him play in the United States and England, where he featured for Manchester United and Everton. At Everton, the New Jersey native recorded 414 appearances in a decade-long career. The 40-year-old also recorded 121 caps with the U.S. men’s national team, eighth in the all-time list.

At 37 years of age, Beasley, too, is riding off into the sunset.

The longtime fullback completes a career that started 20 years ago, and saw him play in Holland, England, Scotland, Germany, Mexico and the United States. Throughout that stretch, Beasley won multiple titles with Rangers, two Eredivisie’s with PSV and three U.S. Open Cups with the Chicago Fire and, most recently, with the Houston Dynamo.

On an international level, the Indiana native featured 126 times for the USMNT, scoring on 17 occasions. Like Howard, Beasley hoisted multiple Gold Cup’s with the Stars and Stripes.