Steve Clark

Champions! Timbers top Crew SC to lift 2015 MLS Cup

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For the first time in club history, the Portland Timbers are Major League Soccer champions after knocking off Columbus Crew SC, 2-1, in the 2015 MLS Cup final at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Diego Valeri and Rodney Wallace will go down in Timbers lore as the scorers of the Rose City’s Cup-winning goals, 27 seconds and seven minutes into the game respectively, lifting Caleb Porter’s side to to the MLS mountaintop.

Valeri, who was named Most Valuable Player of Sunday’s final,  opened the scoring with just 27 seconds on the clock (fastest in MLS Cup history – WATCH HERE), when he capitalized on a shocking error by Crew SC goalkeeper Steve Clark inside his own penalty area. Clark let the ball run across his body in an attempt to play it out of the back, but a poor first touch saw it run behind him. He attempted to recover quickly, but Valeri sensed the gaffe and was quick to close down the space. When Clark finally attempted to boot it out wide, Valeri came in with the sliding challenge and swept the ball into the back of the net.

Portland quickly doubled their lead after another spell of poor Crew SC defending and a massively blown no-call by an assistant referee. Diego Chara played the ball out wide — too wide, in fact, as in, out of play by a two or three feet — to Alvas Powell, but the assistant referee on that side of the field didn’t signal for the throw-in that should have been given (WATCH HERE). Play continued, Darlington Nagbe weaved his way through midfield, played Lucas Melano through out wide and he crossed for Wallace at the back post, where he headed past Clark for 2-0.

[ MORE: Valeri opens the scoring with MLS Cup record-breaking goal ]

Crew SC pulled a goal back through Kei Kamara (WATCH HERE), scorer of 22 regular-season goals and three more in the MLS Cup Playoffs en route to Sunday’s final, in the 18th minute. A mad scramble inside the Timbers’ penalty area began with a failed punch by Adam Kwarasey, and finished with Kamara dancing his way around a sea of defenders and firing a low, bouncing shot past Kwarasey for 2-1.

Lucas Melano had the best chance to re-establish Portland’s two-goal lead in the 54th minute, but the Argentine newcomer dwelled on the ball far too long inside the penalty area, where he was briefly one-on-one against Clark, allowing Michael Parkhurst to recover and block the untimely shot on goal. Parkhurst came up with another massive block in the 60th minute, making a last-ditch, sliding block against Fanendo Adi.

A moment of pure madness followed on the ensuing corner kick. The ball was whipped into the Crew SC penalty area, where Parkhurst made one goal-line clearance with his forehead, then another with his left arm after the ball caromed off the crossbar. No penalty given, no red card, no yellow card, no whistle blown — nothing.

[ MORE: PST staff predicts MLS Cup 2015 — how’d we do? ]

A header by Adi went inches from doubling the lead in the 71st minute, but the big Nigerian striker could only watch helplessly as the ball hit the inside of the post and bounced back into play, catching Clark completely off-guard, hitting him in the midsection and very nearly deflecting into the goal, but ultimately only going out of play for a corner kick. Scenes. Absolute scenes.

Crew SC mustered very little late on with the game and their season on the line, with Portland effectively seeing out the game en route to lifting the Philip F. Anschutz trophy in front of more than 2,000 traveling fans clad in Green and Gold. Sunday’s MLS Cup triumph makes the Timbers the 10th different MLS franchise to win the title.

MLS Cup 2015: HT update, highlights — Crew SC 1-2 Timbers

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We hope you cleared your calendar and situated yourself on your couch in time for kickoff of the 2015 MLS Cup final, because if you didn’t, you missed a whole lot of action early on in Sunday’s final between Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Diego Valeri put the visitors from Portland ahead after 27 seconds (fastest in MLS Cup history – WATCH HERE), when Crew SC goalkeeper Steve Clark made the howler to end all howlers inside his own penalty area. Valeri pounced and made him pay.

The Timbers took a 2-0 lead through Rodney Wallace six minutes later, though the entire build-up to the goal should have never taken place, thus the goal never should have been scored.

That’s a shocking missed call by the assistant referee, who was positioned very well and not that far from the ball when it so clearly crossed the line and went out of play. Darlington Nagbe picked up the ball immediately thereafter, weaved his way through midfield, played it out wide Lucas Melano and he crossed for Wallace at the back post, where he headed past Clark.

[ MORE: MLS Cup 2015 roundtable — storylines, keys and predictions ]

Crew SC pulled one back not long after that, though, through — who else?Kei Kamara, scorer of 22 goals during the regular season and three more in the MLS Cup Playoffs en route to Sunday’s final. This is far from textbook goalkeeping by Adam Kwarasey, but goals count all the same.

VIDEO: Valeri scores fastest goal in MLS Cup history to open 2015 final

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The 2015 MLS Cup final is underway (FOLLOW LIVE HERE), and oh my goodness, there’s 27 seconds on the clock and we’ve already seen a goal scored (below video).

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Diego Valeri was the man who put the Portland Timbers ahead of Columbus Crew SC less than a half-minute into Sunday’s final, and the Argentine playmaker has Crew SC goalkeeper Steve Clark to thank for the opportunity.

[ MORE: MLS Cup 2015 roundtable — storylines, keys and predictions ]

Clark fancies himself a player, rather than just a goalkeeper, one who can play with the ball at his feet and build attacks out of the back. He’s put himself into a handful of sticky situations in 2014 and 2015, but nothing like this, on this stage.

Portland added a second goal shortly after, in the 7th minute, through Rodney Wallace, to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.

MLS Team of the Week — Stars of conference semifinals leg no. 2

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I don’t know about you, but some 15 hours after the conclusion of four second legs of the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs conference semifinals, my head is still spinning. I’m still trying to process what happened in the last seven minutes of Dallas 2-1 AET (3-3 agg., 4-2 PKs) Seattle; Kei Kamara’s amazing header to put Columbus past Montreal, 3-1 AET (4-3 agg.); how in the world D.C. United were so toothless over 180 minutes.

[ MORE: MLS Player of the WeekAll of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Simply put, it was the most thrilling, intense, heart attack-inducing nine straight hours of soccer my poor ticker has ever been forced to endure. And, you know what? I’m deeply saddened to be forced to wait until this time next year to (hopefully) experience something just like it once again.

[ LEG 2: FCD 2-1 (4-2 PKs) SEA | CLB 3-1(aet) MTL | VAN 0-2 POR | NY 1-0 DC ]

Chances are, if you make nine saves in a playoff elimination game, you’re going be to chosen the goalkeeper for the ensuing Team of the Week — that’s Columbus Crew SC ‘keeper Steve Clark. 20-year-old Matt Miazga anchored the Red Bulls defense for 180 scoreless minutes and seamlessly navigated the treachery of losing his center back partner for the season. Wil Trapp was beyond magnificent against Montreal on Sunday, acting as the lone central midfielder for 45 minutes, playing both ways with an engine that never stopped. Kamara scored twice and earned an ocean’s worth of redemption (missed penalty in the second half) with his extra-time winner.

Thoughts? Questions? Agreements? Disagreements? (Of course not.) Leave them in the comments section, as always. I’m not afraid to defend my picks.

[ MORE: 2015 MLS Team of the Week archive ]

MLS Team of the Week — MLS Cup playoffs (so far)

Goalkeeper: Steve Clark (Columbus Crew SC)

MLS Goalkeeper

Defenders: Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Waylon Francis (Columbus Crew SC), Nat Borchers (Portland Timbers)

MLS Defenders

Midfielders: Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Diego Chara (Portland Timbers), Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas)

MLS Midfielders

Forwards: Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew SC), Fanendo Adi (Portland Timbers)

MLS Forwards

MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 28

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Week 28 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is in the books, which means it’s time, once again, to sort out our MLS Team of the Week performers.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

First things first, answer me this: how is one to pick and MLS Team of the Week when neither Sebastian Giovinco nor Robbie Keane score a goal in the same week? Do we still do a TOTW in that event? I suppose we will. Thankfully, Kei Kamara stepped up and picked up the other leading MVP candidates’s goalscoring slack with two on Saturday night, bringing his total to 20 on the season.

[ WEEK 28: FCD 2-1 NYC | SJ 1-1 SEA | TFC 1-3 NE | ORL 3-1 SKC | PHI 1-2 CLB ]

Neither of Kamara’s goals would have been scored without the expert crossing of Columbus Crew SC right back Harrison Afful, so he gets the nod, as well. Elsewhere on the backline, the weekend’s only 0-0 draw — LA Galaxy vs. Montreal Impact — provided three standout defensive performances to make up the back four. If you scored an Olimpico goal this weekend, you’re in the TOTW. Come on down, Michel. As for Tesho Akindele, a strike of this quality also does the trick.

Thoughts? Questions? Agreements? Disagreements? (Of course not.) Leave them in the comments section, as always. I’m not afraid to defend my picks.

[ MORE: 2015 MLS Team of the Week archive ]

MLS Team of the Week — Week 28

Goalkeeper: Steve Clark (Columbus Crew SC)

MLS Goalkeeper

Defenders: Harrison Afful (Columbus Crew SC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Victor Cabrera (Montreal Impact), Dave Romney (LA Galaxy)

MLS Defenders

Midfielders: Adrian Winter (Orlando City SC), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake), Michel (FC Dallas)

MLS Midfielders

Forwards: Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew SC), Tesho Akindele (FC Dallas)

MLS Forwards