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Timbers outlast Sporting KC to reach West semis after wild penalty shootout

Timbers beat Sporting KC MLS (USA TODAY Sports)
Photo by USA TODAY Sports Images

Providence Park proved to be the wild west on Thursday, and Adam Kwarasey was the person standing tallest.

The Portland Timbers advanced from the first round of the Western Conference by defeating Sporting Kansas City, 7-6, in an intense penalty shootout that was decided by the goalkeepers in the 11th round. Kwarasey not only won the game for the Timbers by making the decisive stop on Sporting KC backup Jon Kempin, but also by converting his attempt on the previous shot.

Sporting KC had multiple opportunities to win on penalties in a match that ended 2-2 after 120 minutes, including on ninth-round effort from Saad Abdul-Salaam that incredibly hit off the left post and rolled across the goal line before being pushed out by the right post.

The victory sends the Timbers to the Western Conference semifinals, where they will host the rival Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday in the first match of a two-legged series.

Kwarasey and Kempin both took turns putting their teams in a position to win in the penalty kicks, but no one capitalized until the Timbers’ goalkeeper drilled a hard shot to the left before blocking Kempin’s attempt to the same spot.

Kempin had only entered the game in the 84th minute because regular Sporting KC starter Tim Melia was forced off. Melia had a collision with Rodney Wallace minutes earlier that saw the Sporting KC goalkeeper take a blow to the head, but he stayed on for a bit before eventually being substituted by Kempin.

That moment was just one of many wild ones in a game that went back and forth and put fans through a roller of emotions. Sporting KC had taken the lead in extra time through a gorgeous curled finish from a near-impossible angle from Krisztian Nemeth, but his 96th-minute strike was canceled out three minutes from time.

Timbers forward Maximiliano Urruti one-timed a volley from close range to pull his side level after fellow substitute Dairon Asprilla whipped in a midrange cross on a corner played short.

Sporting KC had similarly managed to just stay alive in regulation. After Rodney Wallace opened the scoring in the 57th minute by stabbing a shot inside the far post, Peter Vermes’ men found an equalizer through a nodded effort from Kevin Ellis in the 87th minute.

The Timbers had the better of the chances in regulation, but their inability to capitalize on them saw them on the brink of elimination until Urruti found the leveler that forced penalty kicks.

The intense contest from the spot did not start out well for Caleb Porter’s squad, as Diego Valeri saw his attempt down the middle stopped by Kempin.

Benny Feilhaber slotted the ensuing shot low and to the right to put Sporting KC in front.

After Nat Borchers scored on the Timbers’ second-round kick, Kwarasey got low to block Dom Dwyer’s take.

Both sides converted their third penalties, but missed on their fourth. Jack Jewsbury tried to go down the middle for the Timbers, but blasted the ball over the crossbar. Sporting KC captain Matt Besler did not do much better, trying to score on a panenka down the middle that floated over the goal.

Urruti and Paulo Nagamua scored in the fifth round before Jorge Villafana saw his low drive thwarted by Kempin in the first round of sudden death. Sporting KC failed to capitalize on the chance to win the game, however, as Ellis’ penalty pinged off the left post after rolling past Kwarasey.

It was not until the ninth round until someone missed again. Alvas Powell had his look stopped by a good reflex save from Kempin before Abdul-Salaam watched on in disbelief and agony as his shot clanked off both posts before rolling out.

George Fochive and Amadou Dia scored on the 10th penalty kicks, and then it was Kwarasey who stepped into the spotlight. The veteran goalkeeper scored with a well-taken attempt, and blocked Kempin’s effort to give the Timbers the win.


  1. This game was exciting, but it was brutal. Maybe SKC started it, but the whole “you started it!” things sounds a bit childish. The fact is that the ref could have sent off multiple players, and then what? You wanna be the guy that oversaw a one-off playoff game finish 9 v 8 or something like that? Look what happened in the NE/DCU match. Geiger, who, granted, is having a pretty bad year, sent off Jermaine Jones in the 90th minute of a match that was pretty much over and he’s being crucified for it.

    Refereeing in the MLS has a long way to go, but frankly, refereeing in soccer has a long way to go. You’ve got one guy trying to chase 22 elite athletes for 90 minutes. Can’t win. So it’s a blood bath. We all got treated to a pretty thrilling ending. Thank you MLS for your entertainment product.

  2. SKC came to disrupt and play hard/border line nasty and it worked. The Timbers were giving them fits in the opening of the second half and were looking like the better team to score, but that’s when the fouling started and it was rough. Timbers then got sucked into it and started fouling and that took them off their game. Nagbe was impressive, even in all of that. You could see SKC giving him space because when they tried chopping him down he (and Valerie) seemed to have the magical escape card they used. Of course as the game wore on (which might be when you joined in) guys were getting tired and sloppier, but I think Nagbe had a wonderful game.

    That was a heck of a match. Still not a way of how SKC makes teams conform to their style (which is rough and ugly stuff) but I get it. I just don’t like what it does to games.

    • I only caught the second half, so maybe SKC goaded them into it, but Portland were as dirty of a team as I’ve seen in s long time. there were at least three brutal head shots by Portland, one resulting in a concussion and one resulting in besler’s face exploding in blood.

      Not sure how SKC are the villains here.

    • Wallaced intentionally kicked Melia in the head and Adi did the same with his elbow to Besler. Nemeth lost his head after this, and should have been red carded, but please stop the narrative that your team didnt make the game ugly

      • Um, DC United fan here, so I was a neutral to this action.

        And yes, what Wallace did was a cheap shot and I think he should have been sent off for it. Also you are right about the Beasler incident. That said, I saw KC play the body real rough after the opening slavo of what looked like Portland shaping up to dominate them soccer wise, and then Portland took the bait and reciprocated. It all went downhill from there. How the ref didn’t send someone off in that game was amazing.

  3. Probably the wildest penalty shootout I have seen. I missed most of the game, but the extra time and shootout were quite exciting and fun to watch for a neutral observer. One thing I want to comment on is an opportunity missed by Nagbe. I know that he has his fans on this site, but when I watch him there seems to be something missing. I don’t know if it’s a lack of a killer instinct or poor decision-making or what. A good example was in the first extra time period when he was able to break in alone on the left side of goal. The GK moved to cut off the angle so that the correct shot was a left footed shot high to the far corner. But Nagbe dithered until a defender was able to close from several yards away and all he could get was a corner out of it. He obviously has speed and many here talk about his ability on the ball, but he just doesn’t produce enough for me. What am I missing? Finally, one other point. While I was watching I thought SKC was the better team in large part because of better decision making. Portland’s players too often kept the ball too long, didn’t pass at the best time and, as a result, just didn’t move the ball as well up the field as SKC. I saw the same thing, only even more pronounced, in the Montreal –Toronto game. Montreal always seemed to make quick passes and made the right choice in when and where to pass the ball. Toronto didn’t and at this level with 2 teams closely matched, that difference can be decisive.

    • Like you said you did not see most of the game. The game changed when Nagbe was moved to wing and not in the center and Porter brought on a defensive midfielder. Timbers lost possession in the midfield and resorted to long balls to Adi. Timbers struggled the rest of the match with no ball winners and lack of possession by the two defensive midfielders. Timbers desperately missed Chara getting forward but mostly winning balls in the defensive third.
      Crazy game with many cards given, yet the ref would not pull out additional cards for multiple open field tackles by players already carrying cards? SKC routinely playing the body or holding through the run of play and the thought of playing the ball an afterthought. Blatant red should have been pulled on #9 for SKC after a tackle and push from behind was immediately followed by kicking the ball into the face of tackled player?
      Did Benny Feilhaber play tonight? I did not notice Zusi all match until the 96 minute? Besler was the guy that kept SKC in the match. Flat out wining and blocking critical balls. Besler may have been the best player on the field tonight.
      SKC did not relent and until Kwarsey shut the door!

    • I was also looking at Nagbe, who did show good skill on the ball and a certain flair but if dude has trouble being pushed off the ball in the mls he’s going to get manhandled In international play. He seems a little soft. He got bossed a few time by Benny effin feilhabor


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