Portland Timbers Postscript: One Leg Down, One To Go

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Out-shot and out-possessed but not out-scored, the Portland Timbers come away from the first leg of their Conference Semifinal with a 2-1 win over the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink.

By the Numbers

10-20

Shots by the Timbers-Shots by the Sounders

5-5

On target shots by the Timbers-On target shots by the Sounders

11

Number of times the visiting team won the first leg in the current playoff format

8

Number of those teams who went on to win the series at home

1

Away legs (out of 5 playoff series) won by the Sounders

-7

Sounders' goal differential in those 5 games

(But on those last two I may be putting my hand in the puppet of stats

and making them say what I want them to say.)


Moment of the Match

Against every recent opponent except Chivas USA, the Timbers have failed to score a second goal once they take the lead. So when Darlington Nagbe made it 2-0 for the Timbers with a silky touch and a cool finish, there had to be some relief mixed in with the joy of the team and the fans.

It turns out that scoring that second may have been crucial for the Timbers in this game, and that's why Nagbe's finish is the Moment of the Match. If Portland hadn’t gotten their second but Seattle had still managed a late goal (entirely possible given how much offensive possession they had), the Timbers would have finished the night disappointed that they had given up a lead, instead bursting with confidence after their first win in Seattle.

A draw in Seattle would have left them with more work to in the second leg as well, as they would have needed a win to avoid extra time. As it is, the Timbers are in a very privileged position--one not shared by any other home team in this second leg--because all they need to avoid extra time is a draw (though obviously fans and team alike would prefer a win). Everyone else needs a win in order to avoid extra time. In fact, Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City need to win by a goal just to get to extra time; to avoid it they'll need to win by two.

Of course Seattle is still not a team to be taken lightly and the late goal (which would have to be the Moment of the Match from a Seattle perspective) certainly kept some hope alive for them, but the Timbers should feel confident. All they have to do is what they've done in every single home game this year except one: get a draw or better.

The Other Games

New England Revolution 2:1 Sporting Kansas City

Anyone hoping the Conference Semifinals would start off with a bang had to wait about 45 minutes, because the first game of the weekend got off to a bit of a slow start. The Revolution finally broke the deadlock in the second half, and though Kansas City pleaded for an offside call, the goal counted and New England followed it up with another just moments later. Kansas City dug themselves partway out of that hole with a goal by Aurelien Colin, with the Revs this time shouting for the offside call.

Houston Dynamo 2:2 New York Red Bulls

For a while there it looked like the Dynamo had completely lost their playoff mojo. They went into the locker room at half time trailing 2-0 thanks to goals by Tim Cahill and Eric Alexander. They pulled two back in the second half, but still have a huge task ahead of them when they face New York on the road. A straight red card issued to Jamison Olave in the second half may help, but they sure could use some of their 2011/2012 playoff form.

LA Galaxy 1:0 Real Salt Lake

Sean Franklin was the unlikely hero for the Galaxy Sunday night, scoring the lone goal that will send them to Rio Tinto with a lead, albeit a slim one. Real Salt Lake rolled out a slightly different formation from their usual in an attempt to escape with a draw or possibly steal all three points, and while they held Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan off, that wasn't enough.

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