Football

MLS playoffs: Portland Timbers edge Seattle Sounders in penalty kick thriller to advance in MLS playoffs



In a match filled with stunning moments, the visitors won on penalty kicks to move on to the next round

Thursday’s Cascadia clash ended in elation for the Portland Timbers, who slipped past their Pacific Northwest rivals on penalty kicks to advance to the next round of the MLS playoffs.

A stoppage time goal from the Sounders forced extra time, but the Timbers came through in penalty kicks with a 4-2 shootout victory. The initial 90 minutes ended at 2-1 in favor of the Sounders following a 2-1 opening leg at Providence Park, and the sides traded goals in extra time, making it 3-2 on the night and 4-4 on aggregate, to prompt a shootout.

Once there, both teams made their first spot kicks before the Sounders missed two in a row to give the Timbers the advantage. Stefan Frei saved a shot from Liam Ridgewell to keep the Sounders alive, but Dairon Asprilla made the Timbers’ final spot kick to seal the win for the visiting side.

Thursday’s result was enough for the Timbers to seal a berth in the conference finals while ending the Sounders’ chances of reaching a third consecutive MLS Cup final.

The Timbers struck first in extra time through Asprilla, who thumped home a free header at the back post within the first five minutes to give the visitors the advantage.

The lead didn’t last long, though, as a handball in the box awarded the Sounders a penalty kick. Nico Lodeiro buried from the spot, giving the Sounders a 3-2 lead on the day and leveling the match on aggregate.

Raul Ruidiaz appeared to have his third goal of the day, and a game-winner, deep into the second half of extra time, but referee Jair Marrufo ruled that the Peruvian handled the ball into the goal, prompting penalty kicks.

The game’s initial breakthrough came as a result of a Jeff Attinella mistake in the 68th minute, giving the hosts the opening goal of the match.

A long cross in forced Attinella off his line as the Timbers goalkeeper came out to collect the ball into the box. He got both hands to it, but the ball slipped out on his way down, falling right to Ruidiaz, who was left with an open goal for a simple finish.

The Timbers found their reply 10 minutes later, though, on a goal from Blanco, who blasted a shot from 20 yards out, leaving a diving Stefan Frei helpless as the ball flew into the bottom corner.

 

With just moments remaining and the Sounders minutes away from elimination, Ruidiaz unleashed a stunning volley to keep the hosts alive.

Just a few seconds after Stefan Frei made a diving save on the other end, Ruidiaz pounced on a ball in the box following a long cross. The initial cross was headed twice before falling to the Peruvian, who unleashed a volley to tie the score in stoppage time. 

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Next up for the Timbers is a date with either Sporting Kansas City or Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference final.

Sporting KC and RSL will collide on Sunday in their second leg with the former holding the advantage following a 1-1 draw at Rio Tinto Stadium from last week’s opening match.



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