The Portland Timbers equalled their deepest ever run the in the U.S. Open Cup, reaching the semifinals, but could go no further after being knocked out in a 2-1 loss to Minnesota United.
The home side brought the pressure to open the match, keeping the Timbers pinned back and unable to break down the pitch for four, nerve-wracking minutes. When they did get down the field, however, the Timbers looked dangerous when Sebastian Blanco found Brian Fernandez with a curling entry ball into the box but the forward was whistled offside.
Blanco found a chance of his own in the 7th minute when the Timbers broke down the pitch with the ball at the feet of Diego Chara. As he approached the box, Chara slipped a ball out wide for Blanco who cut back inside and hit a curling ball at the far post only for Vito Mannone to sprawl out across the face of goal and make the save. Moments later Dairon Asprilla managed a shot of his own, striking from outside the box but pulling his shot just wide.
The Loons had a strong chance in the 10th minute off a free kick deep in the Timbers end. Jan Gregus served a well placed ball in to the near post of the Timbers goal where it met the head of center back Michael Boxall for a chance that skipped just past the post for a goal kick.
In the 21st minute, just like on Sunday, Minnesota were sent to the spot. After a free kick just outside the Timbers’ box struck Claude Dielna in the arm, referee Ismael Elfath quickly whistled for a penalty. Darwin Quintero stepped up to the penalty spot and sent Steve Clark the wrong way as he smoothy struck the penalty into the back of the net.
The Timbers managed a chance to pull one back in the 28th minute. After a free kick into the Minnesota box was headed away the Timbers cycled the ball back around the pitch and found Blanco in space out on the right flank. The Argentine drove forward before playing a ball in to Jeremy Ebobisse on the edge of the box. With a defender at his back, Ebobisse juked and turned toward goal before getting off a quick shot that fell directly to Mannone for the simple save.
In the second minute of first half stoppage time the Timbers found their breakthrough. After a Timbers corner was knocked away the ball found its way back to Jorge Moreira who picked out Ebobisse on the edge of the box. This time Ebobisse played a volleyed, one-time pass through the Minnesota back line for Fernandez who narrowly avoided the offside trap to get in one on one with the keeper. As Mannone turned to face him, Fernandez let rip with a low, hard shot that tucked inside the far post that the Minnesota keeper could only watch fly by and into the back of the net to draw the Timbers even at 1-1.
The Timbers put another chance on goal in the 50th minute and again it came on the follow up to a corner kick. Receiving the ball out wide on the right flank, Dielna chipped a high ball into the box that Ebobisse rose up and hit, sending a looping header toward goal that would have snuck under the bar, but Mannone was vigilant and snagged it out of the air.
A minute later Blanco forced another save from Mannone, testing the Loons keeper from distance and forcing him to palm Blanco’s rising shot away from goal.
In the 59th minute, Asprilla brought down a long switch out wide on the left and carried the ball toward goal then cut inside and smashed a swerving shot toward the far post that again forced Mannone into a diving save to push the ball away.
In the 64th minute the home side struck again. With the Timbers committed forward, Kevin Molino received the ball in the center of the pitch and recognized the space in behind the Portland back line, sending a lofted ball over the top for Mason Toye to run onto. As the ball dropped into his path, the speedy youngster brought it down and took a touch before perfectly placing his shot past Clark to give the Loons a 2-1 lead.
After the goal things became difficult for the Timbers with the home side packing in their defensive shape; daring the Timbers to overextend and open themselves up to the sort of counter attack that surrendered the go-ahead goal.
The Timbers threw numbers forward in the final minutes of the match, grasping at an equalizer, but could not find a real chance against Minnesota until the final minute of stoppage time. A long diagonal ball into the box from Blanco was knocked down in the box by Mannone, putting the ball directly into the path of Diego Valeri. The ball ricocheted off the Maestro and looked like it was headed into the open net, but instead dinked off the post and was swept away by an alert defender as the Timbers looked on in horror.
The Timbers are back at home this weekend when they will take on the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, August 10th. Minnesota will face Atlanta United in the Open Cup final on August 27th.