In what turned out to be their final game of the 2020 season, the Portland Timbers fell to FC Dallas in penalty kicks. The Timbers lost in penalties 8-7 in sudden death, ending their season.
Portland was able to put some key attacking players into their lineup for tonight: Felipe Mora was available to play and was inserted into the starting lineup at the striker position, a surprise given that he was expected to miss this match due to quarantine after international duty. Andy Polo also started on the wing in his international return, and Jeremy Ebobisse was also available for the first time since sustaining a concussion last month. Diego Chara was also back in the starting lineup after sitting out decision day because of yellow card accumulation.
The Timbers were on the offensive early in this one. Portland was the dominant team, but Dallas was also seemingly okay with the team controlling possession, giving the Timbers a lot of space to work with. Portland had no problem working their way into the box, but occasionally they were too indecisive about who should actually take the shot. Still, Portland had numerous chances early on, with five shots in the first 15 minutes, two of those being on target.
Dallas started to be more aggressive as the half progressed, working the ball more consistently into the final third. They even had what appeared to be a goal in the 30th minute when Franco Jara broke past the back line and nutmegged Steve Clark on the shot for a goal. Fortunately for Portland, VAR overturned the goal after they deemed Jara to be offside.
The end of the first half left Portland feeling sour, specifically because of an injury to a key player: Eryk Williamson went down with an apparent leg injury that is yet to be determined. The midfielder tried to play through it, but immediately went down again and had to be replaced by Cristhian Paredes. Giovanni Savarese had to use his sub earlier than he would’ve liked as Portland headed into halftime tied 0-0.
The second half started as back-and-forth as the first half ended. Both teams looked for an edge as it remained a scoreless game. Diego Valeri — as per usual — was having an exceptional game facilitating for the Timbers, creating chance after chance for Portland’s attackers. Creating wasn’t a problem for Portland — they had 24 crosses on the night — but finishing was, as the team either had their shots blocked or were just too indecisive about when to shoot.
Even still, Portland had no problem getting shots off. The Timbers had 18 shots 75 minutes into the match, with Felipe Mora consistently finding the space, and Yimmi Chara and Valeri constantly creating chances for their squad. The chances were there, even if it didn’t always result in goals.
When you’re getting as many chances as Portland was, it’s only a matter of time before the breakthrough comes. It finally happened in the 82nd minute. Yimmi Chara had the ball left of the 18-yard box and worked it up to Jorge Villafana. Villafana pushed up to Paredes, who got the through ball to Valeri.
El Maestro put the perfect amount of touch on the slow rolling pass, letting Villafana catch up to it and kick it right over Jimmy Maurer’s head. Villafana had his second goal in two games, and the Timbers had the lead. It was also Diego Valeri’s 100th career assist.
It wouldn’t be the MLS playoffs — or a Portland Timbers game for that matter — if there weren’t a late goal to make everything more difficult. The Timbers gave up just that in the 93rd minute. Ricardo Pepi of FC Dallas took a long ball that came from midfield and ran right past the back line. The first shot was deflected by Steve Clark and went off the right post, but the rebound found Pepi’s feet and became an easy goal. It was now a tie game and extra time was upon us.
Extra time started and all the momentum was on Dallas’s side. They just kept attacking and attacking, putting tons of pressure on Portland’s defense. While the game certainly wasn’t over, the Timbers looked like a team that was defeated. Neither team gave the other an inch in the end, and we were headed to penalty kicks.
Penalty kicks started, and it was a grim reminder that the Timbers Army weren’t there to make life difficult for the opposing team. Both teams traded goals in PKs, nailing all five of their initial shots. It was on to sudden death, and both teams traded goals the first two times. Dallas made their eighth penalty shot and then it was Villafana’s turn. Villafana, the man who had seemingly won the game for Portland, could not convert in the end. Portland lost 8-7 in penalties, ending their season.