The Portland Timbers withstood a furious barrage from FC Dallas but held on to run out the 2-1 winners despite a second half red card. A brace from Diego Valeri and a series of strong saves from Jeff Attinella highlighted a comprehensive defensive performance that saw the Timbers advance out of the knockout round and into the Conference Semifinals.
In a battle between two teams looking to hang back and defend, both teams needed to make the most of their chances and in the 12th minute, it looked like the home side had opened the scoring on the first real opportunity of the match. Off a free kick in the Timbers end, Dallas served the ball into the box and found Matt Hedges lurking at the back post. The towering Dallas defender headed the ball back across the face of goal to Reto Ziegler to touch home. As Dallas celebrated, however, replays revealed that Ziegler was offside and the goal was eventually overturned with the help of VAR.
Chances remained scarce for both sides as the match progressed until, in the 23rd minute, the Timbers earned a dangerous free kick of their own. On the ball outside the Dallas box Sebastian Blanco was taken down to the ground, drawing protests from the home side that ultimately resulted in a foul for the Timbers and a yellow card for dissent to Urruti. In an excellent position to go for goal, Diego Valeri stepped up to the ball and struck a perfectly placed free kick that curled over the Dallas wall and into the back of the net to give the Timbers a 1-0 lead.
Just two minutes later, Dallas came within inches of finding the equalizer when Michael Barrios received the ball on the run and burst into the Timbers box. With only Jeff Attinella in front of him, Barrios shot and put a glancing ball off the head of the Timbers keeper that deflected into the crossbar and away from goal, preserving the Timbers’ 1-0 lead.
In the 4th minute, of first half stoppage time, Dallas had another chance when Zeigler put a head on a Dallas corner kick, sending the ball flashing just wide of the near post. The header should have been the last action of the first half, but as referee Alan Kelly blew for halftime, both sides came together in a large shoving match that, when all was said and done, resulted in yellow cards to Diego Chara and Carlos Gruezo for inciting the incident.
As the second half resumed, Dallas stepped up their pressure playing numerous dangerous balls in the attack, but struggling to connect on the final ball through a packed in Timbers defense.
In the 57th minute the match took a major turn. A ball over the top put Dominic Badji into a footrace with Larrys Mabiala toward the Timbers’ goal. With Badji a step ahead of him, Mabiala put a hand on the forward’s shoulder, pulling him back and tripping him up, sending both players tumbling to the ground. The foul was clear and, with no other defenders on hand, the referee had no choice but to show Mabiala the red card and leave the Timbers defending their 1-0 lead down a man.
Ratcheting up the pressure, Dallas came close again in the 68th minute off a short free kick. After working the ball into the box, the home side found Roland Lamah lurking at the top of the eighteen. Hitting the ball with his first touch, Lamah slid a shot through traffic and on goal only for the ball to be met by a smart kick save from Attinella.
As Dallas committed more players forward, however, the Timbers were still looking to strike and in the 71st minute they did. On a quick break down the pitch, the Timbers played a long ball forward for the run of Jeremy Ebobisse. Holding off a defender and the rush of goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, Ebobisse dropped a ball into space for the late run of Valeri. With Gonzalez off his line, Valeri had only to thread the ball through the spinning Dallas back line to give the Timbers a 2-0 lead.
The home side continued to push and in the 88th minute a diagonal ball into the Timbers’ box found Badji in space at the back post. Taking the ball down, Badji shot low from close range but again Attinella was able to stick out a boot and knock the ball away.
Dallas finally found the back of the net in the fourth minute of stoppage time, when Lamah carried the ball to the end line and cut a cross back through the Timbers box to the head of Santiago Mosquera. Mosquera’s ball toward goal dropped to the outstretched boot of Hedges who was able to touch it past Attinella and pull one back for the home side.
Although Dallas would continue to fight for the remainder of the match, the Timbers were able to see out the final moments until the final whistle. The win means that the Timbers advance to the Conference Semifinal where they will face either the Seattle Sounders or Sporting Kansas City.