Why Seattle-Portland Leg 2 in 2018 was an instant MLS Classic

EDITOR'S NOTE: Every day at 8 pm ET, full-match replays of MLS Classics will be released in their entirety on YouTube, Facebook, MLSsoccer.com, and the official MLS app (check out the full schedule). Among the MLS Classics: the epic Cascadia playoff clash between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers on Nov. 8, 2018.

One of the most heated rivalries in MLS came to a head one fateful November night back in 2018.

The Seattle Sounders hosted the Portland Timbers in the 2nd leg of their Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoff matchup after the Timbers claimed the 1st leg advantage at home, 2-1. The scoreline left a trip to the Western Conference Final up for grabs heading in the Leg 2 at CenturyLink Field.

Just how crazy did it get in Seattle during the decisive second leg? Here's a timeline of the twists and turns in those 120 minutes played out at CenturyLink Field:

  • 1' - Timbers advance (2-1 on aggregate)
  • 68' - Sounders advance (2-2 on aggregate - aways goals tiebreaker)
  • 78' - Timbers advance (3-2 on aggregate)
  • 90+' - Extra time (3-3 on aggregate)
  • 93' (Extra time) - Timbers advance (4-3 on aggregate)
  • 97' (Extra time) - Penalty kick shootout (4-4 on aggregate)

Only several Timbers didn't immediately realize that penalty kicks were in store.

Wait, what?

FS1 cameras caught many Timbers players celebrating what they thought was advancement to the Western Conference Final, thinking that the second away goal would see them through on the away goals tiebreaker.

Except it did not apply to goals scored in extra time.

Luckily for Portland, Zarek Valentin was there to quickly explain the situation to his teammates:

The Timbers were adamant after the match that they were fully aware of how the rules worked and they explained their celebrating after the match.

“No, I think we were excited,” Timbers manager Giovanni Savarese said postgame

“We celebrated because we had a good effort,” said Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco, who dropped to his knees with his arms aloft at the final whistle, before the penalty kick shootout. “We didn’t play good but we played with heart. We celebrated because we knew [if it went to penalties] we could win.”

Dairon, Dairon, Dairon, Dairon, Dairon

Dairon Asprilla has proven to be one of the most enigmatic MLS players over the course of his six years in Portland. The Colombian was brought into the club as a big addition, in the hope he would fill a void on the wing. But after being a regular starter during the first half of his first season in 2015, the winger soon dropped out of the starting XI.

He made many appearances off the bench as the Timbers qualified for the playoffs that year, but most eyebrow-raising were his performances during the Timbers' run to their only MLS Cup win in 2015. He contributed a goal and three assists in 330 minutes during that run, but it did not lead to any sustained run of good form over the next three years. He made just 30 starts from 2016 through 2018 as PTFC entered the playoffs in 2018.

Not only did Asprilla score the Timbers' goal in extra time in 2018, but he also provided an assist and scored the series-clinching penalty kick in the shootout. His clutch performances in 2015 and 2018 have led some to call him MLS's version of Mr. October.

Seattle's Schmetzer: The most painful loss

Playoff elimination on penalty kicks is tough enough to swallow. But when it comes in your home building against your rivals, and it's no wonder that Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer called it the most painful loss that he experienced since taking over the Seattle head coaching job in 2016.

“I would absolutely say yes for a lot of different reasons,” Schmetzer said after the match.

“It’s horrible when you lose and it’s horrible when you come so close because we were close in the game. And then having our archrivals celebrate like they did on your home field, that hurts. So there’s a lot of emotion there within in the game. Some of the highs and lows make it a tough loss. It’s definitely a draining, draining situation.”

Schmetzer & Co. would prove plenty motivated in 2019, marching to a second MLS Cup title only a year after their heartbreaking loss to the Timbers.

It will do for now. A crack at playoff revenge against their rivals will have to wait.