The Portland Timbers left it until a little later in the season than they would've liked, but they're officially in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Missing attacking standouts Diego Valeri (lower leg injury) and Brian Fernandez (suspension), the Timbers got the offense they needed via Larrys Mabiala, Dairon Asprilla and Sebastian Blanco to earn a 3-1 win over the visiting San Jose Earthquakes, who could've secured a playoff spot with a win of their own.
The Timbers' opening goal came on a recycled set piece, as Jorge Villafaña sent in a low cross from the left that Mabiala swept home in the 29th minute. The Quakes would be level at half through a close-range diving header from MLS all-time leading scorer Chris Wondolowski, but still needed another goal to secure a playoff spot.
But the next goal went Asprilla and Portland, who solidified their hold on one of the West's final playoff spots just before the hour mark. The Colombian winger was able to get inside of Florian Jungwirth, and although Quakes 'keeper Daniel Vega got a hand on Asprilla's initial effort, he was able to track it down and slot it home.
Blanco saved the best goal for last, curling home a textbook free kick 15 minutes from time to ice the game and send Timbers fans home dreaming of a return to MLS Cup.
- 29' – POR – Larrys Mabiala | WATCH
- 40' — SJ — Chris Wondolowski | WATCH
- 59' — POR — Dairon Asprilla | WATCH
- 75' — POR — Sebastian Blanco | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: Pretty simple, right? Portland won and they're in the playoffs, San Jose lost and they're out. After struggling to figure out the opposition in recent home games, Portland didn't seem to miss a beat against the Quakes. They had the better of the chances and two strong penalty shouts in the first half that didn't go their way. They may not play at Providence Park in the playoffs, but a win of this quality will nonetheless be a huge confidence boost heading into the postseason. The Quakes will have to take solace in the fact they came from a 21-point season in 2018 to within a whisker of the playoffs in 2019. Still, losing 9 of their final 11 games has to sting, and will offer plenty of fodder for reflection in the offseason.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Asprilla's goal left put the Quakes needing two goals in the last 30 minutes and continued his history of coming up with clutch fall goals for the Timbers.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: The nod goes to Sebastian Blanco for an electric attacking performance with Valeri and Fernandez on the sidelines. He was the catalyst for some of Portland's most dangerous chances and capped off a memorable outing with a picture-perfect free kick.
- Portland: Oct. 19 at Real Salt Lake, 10 pm ET (ESPNews, ESPN Deportes) | Round One, Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs
- San Jose: End of season.