Player Ratings: Valeri, Blanco shine brightest in Timbers' epic Leg 2 win

The Portland Timbers persevered through adversity to clinch their place in MLS Cup with a star-fueled 3-2 away leg triumph over Western Conference Championship foe Sporting Kansas City.

The home side had the lead and the will to keep coming, but their train to the championship match was derailed by a bombastic away goal by Sebastian Blanco just past the hour mark. Diego Valeri quickly added a second, effectively sealing Sporting KC's doom.

Sporting Kansas City

Goalkeeper Tim Melia, left, and defender Matt Besler, right, fail to clear the danger from Portland attacker Jeremy Ebobisse, center, leading to the Timbers' second goal | USA Today Sports Images

Tim Melia (4): Although the home 'keeper made a couple of good stops, he sure made a mess of the situation on Valeri's first goal, which ultimately secured the tie for Portland on away goals.

Graham Zusi (5): Overall, it wasn't a bad effort from the veteran right back. It's just that, with all the chips down, he was so often imprecise with the ball in the attacking third.

Ike Opara  7): There was one SKC player at the back who should avoid any blame. Opara cleanly shut down numerous Portland surges.

Matt Besler (5): The Sporting skipper had to do a better job of finding either Valeri or the ball on Portland's second. The rest of the night was fine for Besler, but that one mistake hurt.

Seth Sinovic (5.5): Apart from two late episodes, Sinovic was darned near perfect at the back. He helped cause turnovers up and down his flank. It was very good. And then the left back neglected to pick up Valeri's run on the second and didn't close down set-up man Diego Chara on the capper.

Ilie Sanchez (5.5): For about an hour, the defensive midfielder was shutting down Zone 14 and feeding the Sporting KC playmakers early. The final half hour saw Valeri and the rest of the Timbers attack finding space to operate in that crucial area of the field.

Roger Espinoza (5): Stop me if you've heard this one before. Espinoza was competent for an hour, and then considerably less so the rest of the way.

Felipe Gutierrez (6): The Chile international was excellent in the first half, constantly poking and prodding at the Timbers defense in clever link ways. He couldn't quite find so many ideas after intermission.

Johnny Russell (7): The Scotsman never stopped trying to unnerve Portland's defense, and played a part in the opener. A consistently industrious outing.

Daniel Salloi (7.5): The Homegrown ace caused all sorts of worry running into space, and got his reward by scoring with an assured finish. However, Salloi took a knock prior to the break and it dimmed his impact until he made way early.

Diego Rubio (6.5): The striker's link play was largely smooth and he set up the ice-breaker. As it turns out, Sporting needed a little more.

Coach Peter Vermes (6): Look, I can't really fault the losing coach much. His team came out aggressive to grab the lead, you can't plan away the Blanco wonder-goal and one of his pressure-situation subs had a huge impact. Little mistakes in the second half caused the game state to shift so drastically.

SUBS:

Gerso Fernandes (8): Holy speedster, Batman! The winger came flying off the bench and just about pulled this one out of the fire. Gerso torched defenders, created danger and did not waste his big chance.

Krisztian Nemeth (4.5): The 70th-minute sub was unable to contribute any needed offense.

Yohan Croizet (6): Though he didn't come on until the 90th minute, Croizet did his part in getting the team into the final third.

Portland Timbers

From left, Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco and Jorge Villafana celebrate one of Portland's three goals at Children's Mercy Park | USA Today Sports Images

Jeff Attinella (7): After flapping at an early corner kick, Attinella quickly put his night on the right course with a nice save a moment later. He added another good stop late, ending up with five in total.

Zarek Valentin (3): It was definitely a rare off night for Valentin, who was routinely haunted by both Sporting KC left wingers. He was also uncharacteristically sloppy passing out of the back.

Bill Tuiloma (5): For the most part, the Kiwis defender was large and in charge, racking up 10 total area interventions. But he also fanned on the cross for both SKC goals, and that outweighs the good.

Liam Ridgewell (6): Tuiloma's partner was also among the culpable on Salloi's goal. It was Ridgewell's lone mistake, and he racked up some key stops.

Jorge Villafana (6): The Timbers left back put in a solid all-around shift, often standing up to Russell's insistent runs on the ball. His entry feed put Blanco in place above the box to initiate their second goal sequence.

David Guzman (4.5): The Ticos midfielder did not secure the gate or pass well into attack in the first half. Guzman solved the latter problem after the interval.

Diego Chara (6): The midfield agitator was oddly nondescript for about an hour, but finished strong. His well-hit lead pass sent Valeri in alone to seal the deal, and pulled his grade up to average.

Diego Valeri (8): Oh, the struggle was real for a good while. But eventually, Valeri found room to operate and a pair of chances to convert. He was first to act in nodding home the tie clincher and broke free to hammer the final nail in SKC's coffin.

Andy Polo (3.5): Apart from one thrilling attack raid, the Peru winger was mostly spinning his wheels.

Sebastian Blanco (8): It took a while for Blanco to have his say, but that cannon shot changed everything. And, well, it was extra-awesome from a quality standpoint, too. He then started the final phase of Portland's second goal with a danger-inducing scoop pass into the area.

Jeremy Ebobisse (5): For about 60 minutes, the hold-up game just wasn't working at all. Then, suddenly, it totally was. Ebobisse's threat directly proceeded Valeri's all-important first tally.

Coach Giovanni Savarese (7.5): The coach and his Timbers didn't back down when they were struggling to get out of their end for long stretches. They gritted their way to job done despite some parts not working so well. This was a character victory, and some of that credit rightfully needs to go to the boss.

Subs:

Dairon Asprilla (5): Barely touched the ball in his 18 minutes, often mishandling it when he did.

Alvas Powell (6): The replacement right back did what he was sent to do, slowing down traffic through that corner.

Lawrence Olum (6.5): The late sub pitched in with a few commanding aerial clearances.

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