Franco Fragapane sent Minnesota forward with an early opener, but the Timbers struck back with three unanswered goals, as Larrys Mabiala scored the equalizer before Blanco sealed the result with two individual moments of brilliance. Now, a Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Colorado Rapids awaits Portland on Nov. 25.
The Loons rushed to a dream start just 11 minutes into the contest with Fragapane's opener. The chance was spearheaded by right back Romain Metanire, who sprung free behind Portland's backline and sent in a cross that found Fragapane unmarked at the back post for an easy tap-in.
Minnesota couldn't protect the 1-0 advantage, however, conceding the equalizer just minutes from halftime to Mabiala. The center back went skyward to reach a Claudio Bravo short corner kick and launch his header past Minnesota goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair's dive.
Blanco notched the go-ahead goal shortly after the second-half kickoff, pouncing on a loose ball after the Loons couldn't clear a cross, the Argentine playmaker lashing an unstoppable shot inside the far post.
The dynamic midfielder then put the match to bed on 66 minutes in spectacular fashion, pulling up from deep outside the penalty box and cashing home a highlight-reel golazo past a diving St. Clair to make it 3-1.
- THE BIG PICTURE: Portland couldn't have asked for a better response after their nightmare start, showing the difference that both home-field advantage and veteran savvy can make in the postseason. With Blanco in top form, the Timbers look as dangerous as anybody in the West. It's an early end to Minnesota's playoff hopes, compared to last year's Western Conference Final charge before falling to Seattle. Instead of marching toward an MLS Cup, the Loons will again head into the offseason with questions as to how to truly ascend into MLS' elite.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: In a Round One slate that's already provided several highlight-reel goals, this gorgeous strike from Blanco was as good as any of them.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: There's not much debate on this one. Blanco's return re-energized the Timbers during the second half of 2021's regular season, and his electric performance was the catalyst for this playoff victory.
- POR: Western Conference Semifinals at Colorado Rapids | Thursday, Nov. 25 | 4:30 pm ET (FOX, FOX Deportes)
- MIN: End of 2021 season