The Portland Timbers trailed Sporting Kansas City for twenty-two minutes of tonight's do or die playoff match. But with four minutes left to go, the Timbers pulled a goal back, sending the team to penalties for the first time in five years.
Having found a chance at the win after SKC had seeming sew the game up, the Timbers -- and maybe fate -- held on to grab the win, finally getting it in the eleventh round of the penalty shootout as Adam Kwarasey converted his spot kick before saving the attempt of his SKC counterpart, Jon Kempin, and sealing the win.
The shootout was a crazy affair as both teams struggled to find the back of the net. For the Timbers it all started off on the wrong foot as Diego Valeri had his penalty, the first of the match, saved. From there the teams traded saves and misses with Dom Dwyer, Jack Jewsbury, Matt Besler, Jorge Villafana, Kevin Ellis, Alvas Powell, and Saad Abdul-Salaam -- who managed to ping the ball off both posts before it bounced clear of goal -- all failing to convert until Kwarasey made the match winning save on Kempin.
Long before the penalties, however, a game of soccer was played.
The Timbers got on the board first in the 57th minute, breaking through a resolute SKC defense that had, up until that point, not given up a goal to the Timbers in Providence Park since 2012 and not had a goal scored on them by the Timbers in Providence Park since 2011.
The opener came as the Timbers served the ball into the box from a corner kick and SKC failed to clear. With the ball bouncing around the outside of the box, Rodney Wallace touched the ball to Diego Valeri before bursting through the SKC back line. Valeri touched the ball forward and Wallace, after a quick touch, managed to get off a quick shot at the far post, tucking the ball into the side netting and post the diving form of Tim Melia.
Sporting surged back, however, and were soon on the front foot, finding their equalizer just before the start of stoppage. In the 87th minute SKC sent a free kick dropping into the Timbers box and onto the head of defender Kevin Ellis, who got past Liam Ridgewell and headed the ball on goal and past Kwarasey for the equalizer.
The tying goal was deflating for Prividence Park, but SKC's go ahead goal in the 96th minute looked like it would shutter the place entirely. With George Fochive on his back, Krisztian Nemeth took the ball down in the Timbers box near the end line and cut back hard to put the ball on his right foot, spinning Fochive in the process, before hammering home a shot from a tight angle that Kwarasey nonetheless had no chance at.
With time ticking away the Timbers looked like they were done, with Sporting regularly breaking down the pitch and threatening to widen the gap as the Timbers committed men forward.
But the Timbers were not done. Pushing and pushing and looking for a crack in the SKC defense, the Timbers finally found one in the 118th minute as the ball was thrown in to Dairon Asprilla. Quickly turning on the ball, Asprilla picked out Maximiliano Urruti drifting off the back shoulder of his man and hit a laser cross into the box. Urruiti, with space around him and a hard cross on the way, only had to make contact with the ball to send it zipping into the back of the net to tie up the match and send Providence into an eruption of noise as the crowd, seemingly numb only moments ago, remembered what joy feels like.
The Timbers will play the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of their home and away series on Sunday at Providence Park. The match will be at 2:00 p.m. PT.