Tuesday, January 22, 2019 | ePaper
Timbers go up 2-1 after first leg of semifinal with Sounders
AP, Portland :
Seattle Sounders' Cristian Roldan (top center) trips over the arms of Portland Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella during an MLS soccer game in the Western Conference semifinals in Portland, Ore. on Sunday.
The Portland Timbers did what they needed to do at home for the first go-round against the rival Seattle Sounders in the MLS playoffs.
Sebastian Blanco put the Timbers in front with a goal in the 29th minute and Portland hung on over a tense second half to go up 2-1 in the opening leg of their Western Conference semifinal against the Sounders on Sunday.
The second leg is set for Thursday night in Seattle.
"We won, that's the important thing," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. "We'll think about everything else later. We needed a win today and found the win that we needed."
Seattle was hurt by a pair of key injuries to starters Cristian Roldan and Chad Marshall in the opening half that could impact the second leg.
"Obviously it wasn't the result that we wanted, but at the end of the day we got a road goal, so that always helps. It's something to put in your pocket for later. But we understand win the game on Thursday. Those are the facts," Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said.
Seattle, the second seed in the West, had avoided a knockout round game this week after wrapping up the regular season with a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes. The win, secured on Raul Ruidiaz's stoppage-time goal, combined with Colorado's Decision Day victory over FC Dallas, slid the Sounders into second place in the standings for the opening round bye.
The Sounders won 14 of their final 16 regular-season games in another remarkable second-half surge under Schmetzer.
Fifth-seeded Portland lost its final regular-season match against the Whitecaps and had the daunting task of facing FC Dallas on the road in the knockout stage. But the Timbers pulled off a 2-1 upset with a pair of goals from Diego Valeri, despite playing for much of the second half a man down.
The victory set up the Cascadia semifinal between the two teams, who last met in the 2013 conference finals with Portland winning 5-3 on aggregate.
Ruidiaz scored in the 10th minute to give the Sounders the early lead. Roldan moved the ball up the left side and passed it off to Victor Rodriguez, who served it into Ruidiaz out in front of the goal. Ruidiaz tucked his shot into the left side of the net out of Jeff Attinella's reach. It was his 11th goal this season.