The Portland Timbers exploded for three goals in a dominant first half, clinching a top-four seed in the Western Conference with a commanding 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday night.

Sebastian Blanco was the star of the show for the visitors, scoring two of his team's three goals and setting up the other with a deflected cross that resulted in an own goal. With the victory, the Timbers are assured a home Audi MLS Cup Playoff game, while RSL missed a chance to clinch a postseason spot and instead now enter Decision Day with their playoff hopes squarely on the ropes.

RSL pressed the action early, but it was Portland who struck for an opener against the run of play on 17 minutes through a perfectly executed corner kick routine. Cristhian Paredes provided the assist with a flicked header to the far post that found Blanco unmarked, allowing the Argentine to head home a simple close-range finish.

The match stayed wide-open in the aftermath, with each side hitting one off the post within minutes of the goal. Jaroslaw Niezgoda and Justen Glad each had free headers that they put on target, only to see them denied by the woodwork.

Portland then added their second in the 38th minute courtesy of an own goal. The sequence was spearheaded by Blanco, who hit Glad with a series of jukes before sending in a low cross that deflected into the net off RSL's Aaron Herrera.

Blanco capped off the first-half onslaught by finding his brace in the 45th minute, as the Timbers ripped open an out-of-sorts RSL defense with a clinical counterattack. Niezgoda provided the assist with a simple cross that Blanco easily slotted into an open net, with RSL goalkeeper David Ochoa pulled off his line.

Portland protected the three-goal advantage until late in the second half, though RSL eventually brought one back via an 88th-minute penalty kick from Albert Rusnak that turned out to be a moot point.

Goals

  • 17' - POR - Sebastian Blanco | WATCH
  • 38' - POR - Aaron Herrera (OG) | WATCH
  • 45' - POR - Sebastian Blanco | WATCH
  • 88' - RSL - Albert Rusnak (PK) | WATCH

Three Things

  • THE BIG PICTURE: They've endured some struggles this year, but credit to the Timbers for their late-season surge that not only got them back into the playoff mix but guaranteed a home game once they get there. For RSL, the first-half defensive lapses led to a missed opportunity that could define their season, as they went from being able to clinch a postseason bid to now being below the playoff line heading into Decision Day, needing a win at Sporting Kansas City.
  • MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Portland were under a fair amount of pressure early until Blanco's opener completely flipped the script.
  • MAN OF THE MATCH: Blanco makes this an easy call with his all-around electric performance. With their most dynamic attacker looking very much back to full strength after his midseason return from a torn ACL, the Timbers don't have the look of a team anyone is going to want to face in the playoffs.

Next Up

  • RSL: Sunday, November 7 at Sporting Kansas City | 6 pm ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+)
  • POR: Sunday, November 7 vs. Austin FC | 6 pm ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+)