Welcome back to the Post-Slab Pint: Playoff Edition, where I break down (pint in hand) the good and the bad from each Timbers’ result. After the Portland Timbers’ 3-1 thrashing of Minnesota United, there were a lot more good things than bad. The win set up a Western Conference Semifinal matchup away to the No. 1 seed Colorado Rapids, with kickoff set for 1:30 p.m. PST on Thanksgiving.
So, what did I like about the result?
For the most part, the Timbers looked like they were in total control offensively and defensively against Minnesota. I’ll start by saying this, for as worried as I was about the Loons pre-game, I think that was probably the most comprehensive playoff win that I have ever seen the Timbers pull off. Aside from the opening goal that the Timbers conceded (more on that later), the game went about as perfectly as you could ask for from Portland’s perspective. They held Minnesota to just six shots on target the entire game, two of those coming after the 77th minute, with Dario Zuparic and Larrys Mabiala both having what I thought were absolutely stellar performances in defense. The fact that they kept Emanuel Reynoso quiet for the entire game is evidence of that. Additionally, the last few minutes of the first half, and the first 30 minutes of the second half, might have been the best the Timbers have pressed and countered all season.
Sebastian Blanco. I don’t know what else to say about this man anymore. In my opinion, he’s the best player in MLS right now and, as he’s done since his return from injury earlier in the year, put the team on his (slightly injured) back with two stunning goals in the second half. While everyone has waxed poetic about his second goal, and rightly so, I think that his first was my favorite. The amount of technique it takes to hit a bouncing ball across your body with that much power and accuracy is nothing short of genius. Right now, it’s Chucky’s world and we're just living in it.
Mabiala invoked the legend of Futty Danso, waiting until the playoffs to score his first goal of the season. There aren’t many things I love more than the big lads moving up from the back on set pieces, so Larrys Mabiala’s end to the first half was about as spectacular as anything I have ever seen from a Timbers defender. In the span of a couple of minutes, Mabiala saw his overhead kick cleared off the line before jumping over what seemed like the entirety of the Minnesota defense to head home the equalizing goal. What made the goal even better, was that just like Futty Danso’s post-season goal against the Sounders in 2013, Mabiala’s goal was the first goal he has scored this season.
Now, what did I think was bad?
The goal conceded by the Timbers was a microcosm of how poor the defense has been at times this year. I want to be positive because I think the goal was about the only poor aspect of the result for the Timbers but It has to be talked about. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but an unmarked player at the back post scored against the Timbers in 2021. Robin Lod was able to skip past a weak challenge from Claudio Bravo on the edge of the box before finding Romain Metanire (who strolled easily past Bravo). Thanks to some ball-watching from Jose Van Rankin, Metanire squared a ball to an unmarked Franco Fragapane at the back post. If the Timbers want to win MLS Cup, mistakes like that cannot happen or they will inevitably get burned.