KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Sebastian Blanco has been a force to reckon with this season and proved it once again on Thursday, when he grabbed control of the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Championship second leg with a jaw-dropping goal that left spectators and teammates alike stunned.
Blanco's goal, which tied up the game in the 52nd minute, was a swerving strike from well beyond the 18-yard box. The audacious blast gave the Portland Timbers control in the series, en route to a 3-2 win on the night over Sporting Kansas City at Children's Mercy Park, and ensured passage to the 2018 MLS Cup.
Even Blanco himself was a little surprised by his golazo.
“I can’t believe it,” Blanco said during Portland’s locker room celebration after the win.
He continued: “I’m very happy because that goal changed the game. Afterwards, we felt more confident and [Sporting KC] felt strange because they needed to find one goal and we [found] the space after we play from behind for 30 minutes.”
Almost as memorable as the goal itself was Diego Valeri's reaction, as Blanco's teammate put his hands on his head in astonishment. Valeri snapped out of his daze to score the Timbers' final two goals, including the clinching goal to win the series, later in the second half. But he revealed that Blanco's explanation for the strike was as simple as it gets.
“I don’t know," Valeri explained. "He was winning the spaces that I left when I ran to the sides really well in the first half, but in the second half, on the goal, he did it really well. I asked him on the field and he said: 'I just kick.'"
Even though Kansas City tied up the match late courtesy of substitute Gerso Fernandes, Portland persisted.
It was a team effort by the Timbers to rally, but once again this season, Blanco, who has three goals in five playoff games so far this season, offered the boost to carry his team to a vital result.
“We [played] a great second half. At the end of the first half, we started to be on the wall a little bit better and that gave us some chances. I think after Sebastian’s goal, it changed the game. That gave us a lot of energy and confidence to find the second [goal]. And then we defended against a good team. We were proficient in the last 25 minutes,” said Valeri.