The Portland Timbers playoffs are over after falling 2-1 to the Houston Dynamo. Injuries, lapses in concentration, and a tenacious visiting side were the Timbers’ downfall in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Back at Providence Park, the Timbers came out of the gate looking to control the match, getting on the ball and holding possession. With the Dynamo looking to mix it up and hit on the break, however, the Timbers found themselves facing a packed in Houston defense.
As the Timbers poked and prodded at the Houston back line, the first chance of the match came from the Dynamo as the visitors broke down the pitch in the 17th minute. Tomas Martinez carried the ball through the backpedaling Timbers midfield and into the box before dropping it for Erick Torres. After a touch, Cubo hit a hard shot from close in, looking to roof the ball past Jeff Attinella, but the Timbers keeper was able to get a fingertip to the ball and push it up and over the bar.
The Timbers had their first good chance in the 24th minute after a long period of working the ball around the Dynamo box earned them a corner kick. From the corner, Diego Valeri curled in a ball that dropped in the center of the box, finding Dairon Asprilla who rose up above the pack and snapped a header on goal; only for Houston keeper Joe Willis to lay out and make the save, pushing the ball away from goal.
The Timbers would not be denied, however, and in the 39th minute, they got the breakthrough. Following a long string of passes that ranged up and down the pitch while the Timbers help possession, Diego Valeri set Vytas free down the left flank. The Timbers full back ran onto the ball and hit in a high cross that again found Asprilla in the box. This time, the pacy winger was able to bring the ball down and create the space needed to unleash a strong shot past his defender and Willis to put the Timbers up 1-0.
The goal forced the Dynamo to open up and look for an equalizer, and it was only three minutes before they found it. After a foul from Asprilla gave up a free kick in the Timbers half, Houston swarmed the box and Alberth Elis managed to knock the ball down inside the box. With the Timbers scrambling, Dynamo full back Dylan Remick had just long enough to step up and hit a hard, close-range volley that Attinella could only wave at as it splashed into the back of the net and evened up the scoreline at one apiece.
As the second half opened, the Timbers now found themselves in need of a goal to advance, with the Dynamo winning the away-goals tiebreaker. The Timbers pushed forward but struggled to break down the once-again packed in Dynamo defense.
Injuries, however, would once again be the Timbers’ undoing as first Roy Miller was unavailable following a ruptured achilles tendon in training the day before the match, then Darren Mattocks was forced out of the match with a likely concussion in the 13th minute, and finally Vytas was pulled from the match following a foot injury in the 78th.
It was yet another injury in the 74th minute, however, that finished the Timbers off. After an off-target header put Asprilla down on the pitch for an extended period and saw him bleeding from the nose, the Dynamo caught the Timbers shaken and off balance on the restart, playing quickly down the pitch to substitute Mauro Manotas. Thirty yards from goal, Manotas uncorked a fearsome shot that skipped along the ground before squeezing between the dive of Attinella and the post, putting the Dynamo up 2-1.
The Timbers would continue to look for the equalizer, but none were forthcoming from the bruised and battered side.