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Portland Timbers secure 6th place with 3-1 win over San Jose Earthquakes

Bennett Dewan

The Portland Timbers took down the San Jose Earthquakes 3-1 on Sunday afternoon, securing a playoff berth and snapping their five match winless streak just in time for the postseason.

The match started with both sides throwing players forward and pushing for an early opener to set the tone of the match. Forays into the box from both San Jose and Portland provided some excitement, but neither side were able to really threaten until the first quarter of an hour had passed.

In the 14th minute the Timbers had begun to assert themselves on the match and had earned a corner kick in the attacking end. Off the restart, Sebastian Blanco dropped a curling ball at the near post that looked destined for Jeremy Ebobisse, but instead struck the chest of Chris Wondolowski and bounced toward the San Jose goal, forcing Daniel Vega into a fingertip save to keep the ball from bouncing over the line.

Although the Timbers put together several strong attacking moves as the first half continued, it was off another stoppage that the home side broke the deadlock in the 28th minute. After a Timbers free kick was knocked out of the Earthquakes box, Dairon Asprilla gathered the ball just outside the eighteen and sent it wide down the left flank for Jorge Villafana. Gathering up the ball, Villafana hit a low cross into the box that found the sliding for of Larrys Mabiala to bundle it home.

It appeared that the Timbers would have a chance to extend their lead when, in the 34th minute, Ebobisse juggled a bouncing ball up into the air in the San Jose box, attempting to control it, only for the ball to strike the arm of an Earthquakes defender and be cleared away. Although referee Rubiel Vazquez reviewed the play, he ultimately denied the Timbers’ appeals for a hand ball.

The missed chance left the door open for the visitors and in the 40th minute the Quakes equalized. Cristian Espinoza found just enough room to send a whipped in cross toward the Timbers’ near post where all-time MLS leading scorer Chris Wondolowski was lurking. As the ball dipped toward him, Wondolowski dove for it and redirected it on goal where Steve Clark was able to get a touch on the ball, but could only redirect it into the underside of the net.

Blanco came close to putting the Timbers back in front in the 53rd minute when the Argentine midfielder won the ball outside the San Jose box as the visitors were attempting to break down the pitch. Blanco then fired off a dipping shot from twenty yards out that forced Vega into a diving save to push the ball wide of the post.

The Timbers finally found their second in the 60th minute, with the goal coming through none other than Dairon Asprilla. Carrying the ball through the center of the pitch, Ebobisse spotted Asprilla one on one with a defender on the right flank and picked him out with a pass. Receiving the ball, Asprilla took a touch around his man and burst toward goal before hammering a shot into the sliding form of Vega. The Earthquakes keeper stopped Asprilla’s initial shot, but knocked the ball down in the box where Asprilla was able to put home the simple finish and give the Timbers a 2-1 lead.

The Timbers extended their lead in the 75th minute off a free kick earned when Ebobisse was taken down carrying the ball toward the Earthquakes box. Twenty-five yards from goal, Blanco stepped up to the ball and hit a curling shot that swerved around the wall and inside the post, giving Vega no chance at a save.

Just after the restart, the visitors nearly grabbed one back in flukey fashion. After forcing the ball into the Timbers’ box, the Quakes swarmed toward it, forcing the Timbers to scramble for the clearance. With attackers rushing, Bill Tuiloma tried for a strong clearance, but instead put the ball into the body of a Quakes player, deflecting it back at goal and forcing Clark into a quick reaction save at the near post.

With the win the Timbers will play on either Saturday, October 19th or Sunday, October 20th in the first round of the MLS playoffs.