FC Dallas took advantage of the Portland Timbers’ biggest weakness to move on in the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs.
The Timbers conceded an MLS-worst 14 goals in the final 15 minutes of games during the regular season and that familiar foe led to FC Dallas glory in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw on Sunday night. Ricardo Pepi scored in the 93rd minute to send the game into extra time, and eventually penalties, where FC Dallas went eight for eight, allowing them to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals.
The Timbers thought they had the victory when Jorge Villafana’s 82nd-minute top-shelf goal gave them a 1-0 lead, but their season long nemesis of conceding late goals came back to bite them in the 93rd minute when Pepi buried a rebound off the post to level the score and send the match to extra time.
Villafana scored at the tail end of a game that the Timbers controlled from the start. His shot that rattled the ceiling of the net was the 19th Timbers shot on the night while FC Dallas only had three to that point. It also came at the end of a gorgeous passing maneuver by Portland in the final third. Christian Paredes picked out Villafana, who proceeded to work a one-two with Diego Valeri before roofing his shot past a helpless Jimmy Maurer.
It looked like that would be enough to get the Timbers through, but their defense appeared to switch off at the worst possible time, which allowed Pepi to score his determined equalizer. FC Dallas won a header off a goal kick and a one-touch pass sent Pepi alone on goal. His original shot was saved, but it came back to him off the post and left him with an easy finish into an open net.
Extra time had one real chance to speak of and it came with the final kick of the match. Diego Valeri nearly floated a ball into the top far corner, but it clanked off the post and past a rushing Jeremy Ebobisse as the final whistle blew, sending the match to penalties.
The penalty shootout was a clinic in penalty taking. Both teams combined for 15 converted penalty attempts before Jimmy Maurer dove to his left to deny Villafana’s attempt.
The Timbers will wonder how they didn’t score more goals on the night. Possession percentages were a relatively close 58%-42%, but Portland’s quality of possession was far superior. Even after Villafana’s goal, when FC Dallas needed to throw everything forward, the Timbers were still controlling the flow of the game.
Next up for FC Dallas is a date with the winner of Tuesday night’s Seattle Sounders-LAFC clash next week.
Man of the Match
Bressan needed to have a big game in the center of the FC Dallas defense and he did everything he could to slow down Portland’s fast paced and dangerous attacking front. He also converted his penalty kick in the shootout.
Moment of the Match
Pepi denied the Timbers a win in regulation with his determined effort to grab a last-minute equalizer.
Match To Forget
Larrys Mabiala switched off and lost track of Pepi at the worst possible time and allowed FC Dallas to grab a fateful equalizer.