|Diego Chara gives the Timbers some breathing room with his second half goal.|
The victory ensured that Portland will be playing in the 2018 MLS Post Season being the fifth side to secure qualification behind current number 1 seed in the West Sporting Kansas City, second seeded LAFC, third seeded FC Dallas and fourth seeded Seattle. The final berth will be determined during the final week between RSL, who finished their 2018 season in the loss at Portland, and the Los Angeles Galaxy, who must beat Houston at home to jump RSL for the sixth spot. Considering that the last weekend features a battle between Sporting Kansas City and LAFC, there could be movement among the top spots in the West right up until the final whistles. SKC has the most points and a win secured the top berth, while LAFC and FCD are tied at 57 points with LAFC getting the tiebreaker for now. Portland has the chance to jump up in the table with a win in Vancouver, but they would need to depend upon Colorado to defeat FC Dallas and San Jose to upend the Sounders in Seattle. Granted, anything is possible right now, but at the time of this posting, Portland is currently in fifth, meaning they would travel to Seattle for the opening round play-in match on October 31 or November 1 with the winner hosting LAFC on November 4 in leg 1 of the 2 leg conference semi-finals with leg 2 occuring on November 11. Considering the Timbers up and down season up to this point, having a playoff berth is quite an achievement but I don't think anybody on Coach Gio Savarese's side is content with just qualification.
|Jeremy Ebobisse got the start and drove the RSL defense crazy.|
RSL's playoff hopes took a huge hit with the loss to Portland, but they could put pressure on the Galaxy in their home finale on October 18 by defeating New England. Midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Sunny were unavailable in that match for disciplinary reasons and other regulars were just returning from international matches, but RSL used a copped together lineup and thrashed the Revolution by a 4 to 1 tally. With Beckerman and Sunny avaialble again and key players Joao Plata, Jefferson Savarino, Albert Rusnak and Justin Glad all back and rested from the break, RSL Coach Mike Petke had his full compliment of players at the ready. Damir Kreilich, Rusnak and forward Corey Baird were held in check by the Timbers in leg 1 although usual Timbers killer Plata figured into the 1 goal that RSL put up, but with all the players fully fit and another Timbers hurdle in Rimando in the starting eleven, Petke had to like his side's chances going into the weekend. RSL's offense has alternated between stagnant and fluid depending whether Beckerman and Sunny were able to go, and considering both defensive midfielders were ready to go, this would be an interesting chess battle in the middle. The battles between Beckerman and Guzman/Chara have become quite testy over the years, and there was still some bad blood after Beckerman pulled Guzman down during the match in a headlock and escaped the scrutiny of the officials for his actions.
|Lucas Melano entered the match late and earned an assist in his short stint.|
Number 5 nearly put his name on the scoring sheet in the 44th minute off a corner kick from Plata where he outleapt Guzman for the ball and put a header on target with some pace. Clark was able to palm the ball away and Mabiala cleared it out with a header for a second corner kick that generated a close miss for Savarino, but RSL wasn't able to get their goal before the break. RSL came out after the break and generated two huge chances - a 49th minute play where Sunny intercepted a pass from Chara to Valeri on the break and the Timbers lost track of Plata as Sunny punched the ball to RSL fullback Brooks Lennon. As Lennon put a cross over to him on the left hand flank. Plata punched the ball into the south deck and completely out of play for a bad miss. RSL got a point blank shot in the 52nd minute off another corner when Plata's restart found Beckerman, who bumped the ball over to Glad, who was standing near the right post open as Ebobisse moved forward to try and deflect the ball. As Ridgewell tried to move in to deflect the ball, Glad punched a shot on frame that Clark pushed over the bar for a huge reaction save. RSL couldn't believe they missed the shot, while Clark celebrated the deflection with his teammates.
|Steve Clark made several huge saves to earn the shutout & get a slab|
The final 20 minutes saw Portland push to add more to their total. Polo tried his luck from a tight angle in the 82nd minute as he was able to get to the touch line with just Rimando to beat, and the ball caromed off the keeper towards the goalline but RSL was able to push it away. Blanco and Valentin broke down the right in the 84th minute off a superb run, and when RSL couldn't clear the threat, Valentin fed Blanco with a nice pass and Seba forced Rimando into a huge reaction save to block the ball away. Rimando wasn't lucky enough minutes later when Blanco would get his goal off a lovely pass from substitute Melano, who replaced Ebobisse, when Valeri fed Lucas in the middle of the pitch with RSL scrambling. Lucas held the ball and waited to space or players to open up, and he was able to find Blanco wide open. Sebastian did have to outflank Glad and Rimando for the shot, but Seba was able to calmly slot the ball in to extend the lead to 3 to 0. The result meant that Portland had qualified for the postseason breaking the long standing even year curse that has been plaguing the team for years.
|Savarese was able to celebrate the big win in the regular season home finale.|
It is rather unsettling, however, that the finale against RSL could indeed be the last match in Providence Park for the 2018 Timbers season though. If Portland is unable to overtake anybody, they would be traveling for the play in match and would only earn a home match if they were able to advance. And it's that fact that seemed to resonate with several players during the proceedings. Ridgewell seemed very focused and emotional as rumors persist whether he will remain in Portland, and he brought out his recently born daughter during the anthem to celebrate her arrival with the home fans. With the Timbers Army doing their usual end of season tifo individualized for each player and Blanco winning the Supporter's Player of the Year award after a vote of the supporters, there seemed to be much emotion in the air that this could be the final gathering for 2018 at Providence Park. I, however, don't think so and feel we will get another chance to chant and sing for victory, but as with everyone, we won't know much until the matches complete next Sunday. But for one sunny afternoon in front of another sell out crowd, the Timbers and their fans could celebrate and bask in the accomplishments of the 2018 season and look forward to the next round of fun.