The Portland Timbers are headed to their second MLS Cup in club history, after defeating Sporting Kansas City 3-2 on Thursday at Children's Mercy Park in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Championship second leg, to win the series by the same scoreline on aggregate.
The teams played to a scoreless draw in the first game in Portland, and Sporting looked to be on their way to reaching the title game on December 8 against Atlanta United after a dominant first half. But the Timbers came roaring back in the second 45, and while Sporting didn't give up, they could not find the go-ahead goal to ultimately book their ticket to MLS Cup.
Sporting grabbed the upper hand 20 minutes in, as Daniel Salloi was on the spot once more for his team, receiving a low cross zipping across the goalmouth from Diego Rubio and tapping it in between Timbers defender Zarek Valentin's legs on the way into the net.
The home side subsequently scored two goals in the first half, but both were correctly waved off.
Portland tied up the game and took the edge in the series shortly after halftime, as Sebastian Blanco teed up a swerving blast from 25 yards that left the crowd stunned and teammate Diego Valeri in disbelief.
But nine minutes later Valeri would get in on the action himself, as he fought for a ball up top that was flicked up by Jeremy Ebobisse and beat Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia to head it into the net and give the Timbers a major advantage in the series with the 2-1 lead.
Sporting kept hope alive as substitute Gerso Fernandes scored in the final 10 minutes to tie up the game. In spite of nine minutes of second-half stoppage time, Portland held on to advance, as Valeri iced the game on a counterattack in the 99th minute.
- 20' – SKC – Daniel Salloi | WATCH
- 52' – POR – Sebastian Blanco | WATCH
- 61' – POR – Diego Valeri | WATCH
- 81' – SKC – Gerso Fernandes | WATCH
- 99' – POR – Diego Valeri | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: This was a pre-MLS Cup final, and Portland got the job done. For the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference, it continues a gritty and exciting run through the MLS Cup Playoffs. Sporting will obviously be disappointed in the result, as their quest to add to their trophy case ends one game early.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Valeri's first goal was the pivotal goal in the game, but Blanco's was another pantheon golazo in an MLS Cup Playoffs full of them.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Portland needed a spark and Blanco provided it, scoring the goal that flipped the series and getting involved in the series-clincher, as well.
- SKC: End of season
- POR: MLS Cup | Saturday, December 8 at Atlanta United (8 pm ET | FOX, UniMás, TSN, TVAS)