ATLANTA — Jeremy Ebobisse wasn't expected to be in this position just a few months ago.
The 21-year-old played just eight minutes in the Portland Timbers' first 26 matches of 2018. But after the trade of Fanendo Adi and the inconsistent play of Samuel Armenteros, some playing time opened up at the striker position.
Ebobisse started five of the Timbers' last eight matches and all of their Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoff matches, including the MLS Cup final against Atlanta United on Saturday night. The Timbers weren't able to come up with the victory, as they had in six in 10 of his starts, losing 2-0 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
"This is sports. It hurts a lot. And I'm young, so I haven't experienced as much of this as other guys," said Ebobisse in the locker room postgame. "It hurts even more for me. Especially knowing the part that I played – some of the mistakes and the opportunity I had to make up for them."
The Duke product had a role in Atlanta's first goal on the night in the 39th minute, as the home team pushed numbers forward and forcing Zarek Valentin to clear the ball. Ebobisse had a heavy first touch that allowed Michael Parkhurst to tackle him off the ball, and the ball fell to Josef Martinez, who maneuvered around Liam Ridgewell and Jeff Attinella to bag the Five Stripes' opener.
Less than three minutes, Ebobisse was on the end of his team's first real chance of the match. A Valentin throughball found Sebastian Blanco, whose cross met the striker all alone at top of the six-yard box. His header was saved by a diving Brad Guzan, as the Timbers went into halftime down a goal.
“I wanted to score, obviously," Ebobisse said. "It would have been nice to make up for the mistake just a couple minutes later. It was obviously a golden chance. Guzan made a good save, and the defender scrambling at the last second got me a little off balance. Again, it’s just something I’ll carry with me into the offseason, overanalyze, and hopefully I’ll bounce back.”
While many of the statistics from the match showed the two teams fairly even, Ebobisse did not take much from what ended up being a loss in a final.
“We’re in a championship game. What matters are goals, not possession and making it competitive. A small, small silver lining is that we were competitive, but I don’t take too much else from that.”