The Portland Timbers are headed to the Western Conference finals. In a wild, seesawing affair, the Timbers topped the Seattle Sounders on penalty kicks in front of 39,542 at CenturyLink Field on Thursday night.
After extra time ended with the two-legged series tied 4-4 on aggregate, second-half substitute Dairon Asprilla beat Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei to give the Timbers a 4-4 (4-2) win on penalty kicks. Lucas Melano, Diego Valeri, and Sebastian Blanco converted in the shootout for the visitors as well. For the Sounders, Will Bruin hit the post and Osvaldo Alonso had a soft roller to the right post denied by Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella.
The Timbers begin the Western Conference finals against either Real Salt Lake or Sporting Kansas City on November 25.
The evening began with the Timbers holding a 2-1 aggregate lead after besting the Sounders in Portland on Sunday.
Raul Ruidiaz opened the scoring in the 68th minute, pouncing after Attinella fumbled a routine cross at the corner of his six-yard box. It was the Peruvian striker’s 12th goal across all competitions since joining the Sounders this summer, and his second goal in two playoff games. Thanks to Ruidiaz’s road goal in the first leg, the Sounders were briefly through to the conference finals.
But Portland replied just 10 minutes later, on only its fifth shot of the match. Asprilla found Blanco at the top of the penalty area and Blanco took just one touch before beating Frei from 19 yards out and temporarily securing the Timbers passage to the next round. It was the second goal in two playoff matches for the Argentine midfielder, and his sixth goal in his last seven appearances.
Ruidiaz forced extra time in the third minute of stoppage time with a stunning side volley that put the Sounders up 2-1 on the day and tied the series 3-3 on aggregate. Blanco, a hero just minutes earlier, spoonfed Ruidiaz on the goal, sending a defensive header into the heart of the penalty area.
Neither side was done scoring, though, as the Timbers took a lead early in extra time only to see the Sounders equalize yet again.
Asprilla tied the match 2-2 and put the Timbers up 4-3 on aggregate just two minutes into extra time, slipping into space between the Sounders’ center backs and heading a Valeri cross past Frei.
Nicolas Lodeiro then tied the series in the 97th minute, slotting a penalty kick past Attinella to put the Sounders up 3-2 on the day and tie the series 4-4. The Uruguayan midfielder converted all six of his penalty kick attempts this season. Referee Jair Marrufo awarded the penalty for a handball on Blanco.
Ruidiaz appeared to score a potential game-winner in the 113th minute, but Marrufo waved it off for a handball.
The Sounders started the match on the front foot, controlling nearly 75 percent of possession over the first 15 minutes. Despite earning eight early corner kicks, the hosts mustered only two shots over the first half hour, and managed nothing more dangerous than a few of tantalizing crosses in the first half.
For their part, the Timbers only occasionally threatened on the counter, and were similarly toothless in rare instances of possession until late in the match. The visitors didn’t put a shot on target until after the hour mark.
Ruidiaz saw the first legitimate chance of the match in the 55th minute, latching onto a Roman Torres header near the penalty spot, but mis-hitting a first-timed shot past the left post.
Both teams started the match shorthanded thanks to injuries picked up in the first leg. The Timbers were without midfielder David Guzman (head, thigh), while the Sounders missed Chad Marshall (torn meniscus) and Cristian Roldan (strained hip flexor).
MAN OF THE MATCH
Dairon Asprilla. All he did was enter the match in the 72nd minute and score a goal, deliver an assist, and bury the penalty shot that advanced his team past its archrival and into the Western Conference semifinals.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Will Bruin’s miss in penalties. A match of wild momentum swings, seemed to swing permanently in Portland’s favor after Bruin hit the post.
MATCH TO FORGET
It was a taught, frenetic, well-played match throughout, but Harry Shipp, starting for Roldan, failed to complete much in the way of dangerous passes.