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MLS is Back: Timbers heading to final after holding off late Union rally

The Portland Timbers are through to the MLS is Back Tournament final, but not before suffering a late scare vs. the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday.

The Timbers held off a late comeback attempt from the Union to prevail, 2-1, in their semifinals meeting on Wednesday night. The Western Conference side was cruising to the competition’s championship game after scoring via a pair of corner kicks on each side of halftime, but an 85th-minute strike from Andrew Wooten gave the Union life in the dying moments.

Kacper Przybylko scored a would-be equalizer for the Union a minute later, but the goal was ruled offside. A VAR review determined that the initial call that Przybylko was in an offside position when he received the pass from Brenden Aaronson was the correct call.

The Timbers will now meet the winner of Thursday’s semifinal  between Orlando City and Minnesota United in the tournament final on Tuesday.

The Timbers were the more dangerous side for much of Wednesday’s affair and took the lead early vs. the Union. Jeremy Ebobisse took advantage of some lax marking in the 13th minute to meet Diego Valeri’s corner kick and head a skipping effort into the back of the net.

Blanco doubled the advantage in the 70th minute, heading home from close range after Dario Zuparic flicked on another corner from Valeri.

Sergio Santos had a glorious opportunity to pull the Union even just before halftime. The Eastern Conference side was awarded a penalty kick after Blanco was called for a push in the box, but Santos fired his penalty attempt over the crossbar.

Even at 2-0, the Union kept pushing and pulled one back in the 85th minute. A free kick from Jamiro Monteiro was stopped by Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark, but Andrew Wooten pounced on the rebound and fired it home.

Seconds later, Przybylko found the back of the net from close after a feed from Brenden Aaronson. The linesman immediately raised his flag, however, to rule out the goal that could have forced penalty kicks.

Man of the Match:

Sebastian Blanco. The tournament’s best player showed once again why he has been the driving force behind Portland’s march to the final. His dangerous shot earned the corner kick that led to Portland’s opener, and his goal proved to be the winner.

Moment of the Match:

OFFSIDE OR NOT?: While the Union blew an opportunity to pull level in first-half stoppage time via a missed penalty, Przybylko’s would-be equalizer that was offside by the narrowest of margins will be talked about aplenty.

Match to Forget:

Sergio Santos: His poorly-taken penalty summarized his forgettable night, though it was a bit of a mystery why a player with no documented penalty kicks taken in his career stepped to the spot on Wednesday in such an important moment.


  1. Jeremy Ebobisse seems to be overlooked here. 4th goal this tournament, I think he might be ready for a big year. Compared to our other young players he has been kind of slow to get going, being all of 23. I don’t think he should be overlooked, however. He could have an international future.

    • Ebobisse is very mature hard working player surrounded by high IQ offensive futbol players. He showed up as a target striker and forced to learn how to play as a wide player. Most of all Ebobisse has learned to play in transition on the counter from all over the field and often while in defensive third. His future might still be played as a wide winger with the Timbers possibly having a better central forward In Niezgoda. Ebobisse needs work on his first touch and overall possession. He is skilled with his head and both feet. Effort and desire are his best asset!

  2. Time for Aaronson to go. Yes, he’s got work to do but everyone had things to work on when they went to Europe. Adams wasn’t perfect when he left for Leipzig, Wes wasn’t perfect his first years at Schalke. Beyond he’ll have to get better to see the field, he’ll get out of the 4-4-2 diamond where keeps running into the correct space only to find the 2nd CF standing there. I think McKenzie could use the rest of the season, but Brenden is ready now.

    • What do you think his transfer value is? Sounds like Philly is really banking on an influx of cash with his sale. Aaronson is a good player. He does a great job taking into account where players are and their movements picking out passes that create scoring chances. However, physically he is not strong on the ball and got dispossessed a number of times last night by Chara and Williamson. His workrate is just okay and wondered why he didn’t take the initiative to go get the ball in the final third last night? Timbers dropped into a Christmas tree 4-3-2-1 and at times 4-4-2 defending because the Union had nothing in the final third. Then playing from the back stringing two passes forward to spring into transition with numbers and additional numbers in the secondary break. Valeri and Blanco are excellent examples of midfielders who play all over the field to get on the ball and influence the game Hoping Aaronson further develops his game and I agree more of 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 would help him shine.

      • I have no idea on value, with the pandemic it’s going to be lower anyway you’d think. 2-3 million if I had to guess, that would be in line with Tyler Adams. I think the idea is to gain the reputation that their academy is a pathway to Europe attracting better you, more than getting a big payday now. I don’t think Curtin is the best tactical manager, it’s kind of interesting that the 4-4-2 diamond has gone from the norm to a gimmick. I thought a lot of times last night he moved into a good spot but one of the forwards went to the same space nullifying his movement. I did wonder why he didn’t drop in more but he avoided so much a thought it had to have been part of the game plan. Pryzblko looks very different this season, he had 15 g last season, he hasn’t looked the same you wonder if contracting COVID has effected him. If Brenden was in a 4-3-3 with a CF that can play off too him I’d think that’s optimal.

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