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Portland Timbers’ Major League Soccer dream becomes a reality

Portland Timbers midfielder Santiago Moreno settled the ball along with his chest and turned centrally. He had acquired the cross close to midfield and all of a sudden discovered himself in acres of area with teammates flanking him on either side. He drove towards the penalty field and when the defenders did not shut out, he launched a shot from simply past the penalty arc.

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa has his submit lined, however Moreno’s shot ricocheted off the submit, into Ochoa and again into the online.

“What a good second to attain his first purpose,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese stated.

– ESPN+: MLS chat and extra on ESPN FC Daily (U.S. solely)

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The strike put Portland up 2-0 within the 61st minute and, with the best way Savarese’s aspect had been taking part in, it would as nicely have been lights out. The Timbers nonetheless needed to see out the match, however it was at that second when the raucous crowd at Providence Park may begin to style it: The Timbers have been going to MLS Cup. Half an hour later it was official.

And not solely that, by advantage of their common season factors whole, the Timbers will host whoever comes out of the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia Union or New York City FC.

Reaching MLS Cup is not new territory for the Timbers — they received it in 2015 and have been runners up in 2018 — however Saturday’s return journey would be the first time they may play host to Major League Soccer’s grandest stage.

For Savarese, that has been the dream since he began managing the workforce in 2017.

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“The dream turned a reality,” he stated. “And the one means this turned a reality is due to the onerous work everybody has put on this yr and all these years which have been right here. To be capable to win this recreation tonight and host MLS Cup is one thing that we really feel very proud and enthusiastic about.”

It additionally offers the Timbers with loads of motive to be assured headed Saturday’s recreation. During the common season, solely the New England Revolution — which set the league’s single-season factors document — received extra video games (12) than Portland did at house (11). The mixture of one of many league’s most enthusiastic fan bases with a turf taking part in floor has turned Providence Park into a fortress.

“It’s undoubtedly crucial for us to be house,” stated Timbers ahead Felipe Mora. “Just being with our followers right here, they make us really feel nice at house. So that is going to be actually essential to play within the remaining.”

As the No. 4 seed within the Western Conference, Portland took an unlikely path to get right here. It opened its playoff run with a 3-1 win in opposition to Minnesota United earlier than beating top-seeded Colorado Rapids 1-0 on the street to earn one other house recreation in Saturday’s convention remaining. Both Philadelphia and New York City went into the playoffs with higher seeds, however have been simply off the Timbers’ regular-season factors whole (55).

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A poor clearance by Real Salt Lake falls to the toes of Portland’s Felipe Mora who faucets it previous David Ochoa.

Sloppy defending from Salt Lake within the fifth minute gave Portland the cushion it was on the lookout for. A poor effort to clear the ball from seven yards in entrance of purpose by Aaron Herrera put the ball at Mora’s toes and his fast response despatched the ball again towards purpose past Ochoa’s attain.

Portland bought the win regardless of its finest attacking participant, Sebastian Blanco, watching from the bench. With one other week to get better from a hamstring harm that was initially thought to have saved him utterly out of the lineup in opposition to RSL, he figures to have a good shot at being again within the beginning XI.

The loss spells the top of the road for RSL, however what a magical run it was. The workforce was moments from being eradicated on Decision Day just for Damir Kreilach’s last-minute purpose to maintain the season alive. Then got here the historic win-without-a-shot recreation to advance by Seattle and a sturdy exhibiting to knock off Sporting Kansas City.

“I could not be extra happy with being a a part of this group,” RSL interim head coach Pablo Mastroeni stated. “Nobody gave us a shot when the season began and nobody gave us a shot when the playoffs began both. And so to have the psychological toughness to beat the notion of who we’re is implausible. You can at all times have a look at issues from both perspective, however I could not be extra happy with the trouble and dedication of this group that I used to be capable of lead.”

As typical, MLS Cup will run by a workforce from the Pacific Northwest. No workforce apart from Portland or Seattle has represented the Western Conference since 2014.

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