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.