Cristhian Paredes and Jaroslaw Niezgoda did all the scoring they needed to do in the first half, as the Portland Timbers trounced Austin FC at Providence Park, 3-0, on Sunday evening to round out the 2021 regular season.
The outcome of the Decision Day match didn't change the playoff equation for the Timbers, who knew at the opening whistle they'd enter the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs as the Western Conference's No. 4 seed, and then learned shortly after their match went final they'd be hosting Minnesota United FC.
The Timbers took advantage of Austin turnovers on both first-half goals. The first one came in the 17th minute, where both Santiago Moreno and Sebastian Blanco connected on passes to set up Paredes' shot. The second came right before halftime when Niezgoda was able to chest in a final ball from Yimmi Chara.
It became even more of a pile-on less than eight minutes into the second half when Blanco and Niezgoda combined on a give-and-go play. That ended with Blanco walking it in past Brad Stuver, who'd been good for a double save just a few minutes prior to staunch Verde's bleeding.
After Austin appeared to have the Timbers' number earlier this season, with 4-1 and 3-1 wins in Q2 Stadium-hosted matches in July and August, Portland exacted a bit of vengeance with the decisive win. Yimmi Chara nearly made it more decisive in the 78th minute, but Freddy Kleemann deflected Chara's shot to the crossbar with arguably the best Austin FC defensive effort of the night.
- THE BIG PICTURE: Portland had a relatively easy and low-stakes Decision Day match, but then had to wait on the crazy finishes of both the SKC-RSL matches and the Galaxy-MNUFC matches to learn who they’d be hosting as their Round One opponent. For Austin, who displayed some good form at home in the latter stages of the season, continued their road woes with a flat performance to close out a memorable (and yet in ways forgettable) expansion season.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: While the last goal wasn’t decisive, it was the match exemplified in a single moment, with the Timbers executing brilliantly and Austin left looking out of sorts.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Blanco capped a stellar performance, that included a first-half assist, with a second-half goal.
- POR: vs. Minnesota United FC, Western Conference Round One, Audi MLS Cup Playoffs
- ATX: End of season