Timbers Clinch Berth in Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs with 3-0 Win over Real Salt Lake
PORTLAND, Ore. - Receiving goals from three different players, the Portland Timbers clinched a berth in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs with a 3-0 win over Real Salt Lake in front of 21,144 fans at Providence Park on Sunday afternoon. Larrys Mabiala opened the scoring for Portland in the first half, while Diego Chara and Sebastián Blanco tallied second-half goals to help the Timbers qualify for the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
The Timbers (15-9-9, 54pts) became the fifth team in the Western Conference to clinch a berth in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs. It marks the first time Portland has qualified for the postseason in consecutive seasons in the MLS era. Entering the final week of the regular season, the Timbers currently sit in fifth place in the Western Conference standings, trailing fourth-place Seattle Sounders FC (54pts) by two points and FC Dallas and Los Angeles FC with 57 points, both tied for second place, by three points.
Portland recorded its 15th win of the season, which is tied for the most wins in a single season (2017) in the MLS era. With 15 wins, head coach Giovanni Savarese is now tied for the third-most wins by a head coach in his first year as an MLS head coach. Additionally, the Timbers earned their 11th win of the season at home. Portland is the third MLS team ever to have 11 home wins in three consecutive seasons, joining FC Dallas (2014-16) and LA Galaxy (2013-15).
With the win, the Timbers are unbeaten in their last five home matches (4-0-1), registering four shutouts and outscoring opponents 10-2 during that span. Portland recorded its eighth shutout at Providence Park in their win over Real Salt Lake, which ranks tied for the second-most home clean sheets in MLS this season and the team's 10th clean sheet overall. The Timbers 10 shutouts rank tied for fourth-most in the league in 2018. Additionally, Portland concluded the regular season conceding just 13 goals in 17 home matches, which ranks as the third-fewest home goals allowed in MLS and the fewest conceded among Western Conference sides.
Blanco recorded his 10th goal of the season in the match. With the goal, the Timbers became the fourth set of teammates since 2000 and the eighth set of teammates in MLS history to each have double-digit goals and assists in the same season. Blanco has 10 goals and 11 assists for Portland in 2018, while Diego Valeri has recorded 10 goals and 12 assists.
Against Real Salt Lake
The Timbers improved to 2-0-0 against the Real Salt Lake in 2018, outscoring Real Salt Lake 7-1 in the two matches. Individually, Blanco recorded three goals and two assists in the two matches between the two sides in 2018. In total, five different players scored a goal for Portland against Real Salt Lake this season.
Valeri nearly opened the scoring for Portland less than 30 seconds into the match. Liam Ridgewell played a ball over the top of the Real Salt Lake defense for Valeri running into space. Valeri dribbled into the box and fired a shot from a tight angle at the right post, forcing a save by Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Portland claimed a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute of the match as Mabiala scored off a set piece. After Chara earned a free kick for the Timbers on the far left wing, Valeri lined up the kick and delivered a pinpoint pass to Mabiala at the right post, who converted from close range for his fifth goal of the season.
The Timbers remained on the front foot creating another scoring chance in the 17th minute. Winning possession back just outside Real Salt Lake's box, Jeremy Ebobisse played a quick back-heel pass to Blanco running down the left side of the field. Blanco weaved his way down the left side of the box and fired a low, hard shot across the face of goal, but Rimando dove low to make the stop. Less than two minutes later, Portland intercepted a deflected pass near the edge of the box and Valeri unleashed a curling strike that went just wide of the right post.
Goalkeeper Steve Clark came up with a critical stop in the 44th minute to preserve the Timbers lead. Joao Plata sent a corner kick to the near post for Kyle Beckerman, who directed a powerful header on frame, but Clark batted the attempt away and the ball was cleared by Mabiala.
Clark made another key stop in the 52nd minute, again on a corner kick by Real Salt Lake. Plata's corner kick deflected off Beckerman inside the box and landed for Justen Glad, who fired a shot from point-blank range near the right post, but Clark reacted quickly, reaching above his head with his right hand to knock the ball away before it was cleared out of the box.
The Timbers doubled their lead in the 68th minute on the counter-attack as Chara tallied his second goal of the season. Mabiala played the ball into space for Ebobisse running down the center of the field, and he passed the ball to Blanco making a run down the right side of the field. Chara sprinted from midfield into the box and Blanco slotted a low, hard cross to Chara, who dribbled around Rimando and finished from close range.
Blanco came close to adding a third goal to the Timbers total in the 84th minute. Working the ball down the right side of the field, Zarek Valentin and Blanco combined in the box. Valentin won the ball back inside Real Salt Lake's box and played a slip pass to Blanco, who fired a shot from a tight angle near the right post, forcing a diving save by Rimando.
In the 87th minute, Blanco tallied his 10th goal of the season to increase Portland's lead to 3-0. Second-half substitute Lucas Melano received the ball just outside the box and turned to play a diagonal pass to Blanco running in between a pair of RSL defenders at the edge of the box. Blanco cut back and beat Glad inside the box before slotting a shot into the bottom corner of the goal.
The Timbers clinched a spot in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs with the victory, securing a postseason berth in consecutive seasons for the first time as an MLS club. Dating back to its USL era, it is the first time Portland has qualified for the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 2009 and 2010.
The 2018 season marks the 15th time Portland has qualified for the playoffs across all eras, dating back to 1975.
With 15 wins, head coach Giovanni Savarese is now tied for the third-most wins by a head coach in his first year as an MLS head coach.
Portland recorded its 10th shutout overall and its eighth shutout at Providence Park this season. The team's 10 shutouts ranks as the fourth-most in MLS in 2018, while its eight home clean sheets ranks tied for the second-most in the league.
The Timbers conceded just 13 goals in 17 home matches in 2018, which ranks as the third-fewest home goals allowed in MLS and the fewest allowed among Western Conference teams.
Portland is the third MLS team to have 11 home wins in three consecutive seasons, joining FC Dallas (2014-16) and LA Galaxy (2013-15).
Sebastián Blanco has recorded a goal or an assist in four consecutive appearances (4g, 3a), tallying four goals and six assists in his last eight games.
- Blanco delivered his 11th assist of the season. Blanco is the second Timbers player this season to have 10 or more goals and 10 or more assists, joining Diego Valeri.
Portland improved to 2-0-0 against Real Salt Lake in 2018, outscoring Real Salt Lake, 7-1. Notably, five different players (Larrys Mabiala, Blanco, Jeremy Ebobisse, Lucas Melano, Diego Chara) scored goals at Real Salt Lake this season.
Mabiala tallied his fifth goal of the season. His five goals rank as the most among defenders in MLS this season and the most by a Timbers defender in a single season.
Blanco and Valeri are the fourth set of teammates since 2000 and eighth set of teammates in MLS history to each have double-digit goals and double-digit assists in the same season.
Chara recorded his second goal of the season. The two goals tie Chara's career high for goals in a single season with 2011, 2014 and 2015.
Valeri delivered his 12th assist of the season. The 12 assists are Valeri's most in a single season since 2014.
Lucas Melano recorded his first assist of the season. Melano now has nine career assists for Portland.
Steve Clark earned his fourth win in six starts for the Timbers in 2018.
Portland's concludes the regular season on the road against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday, Oct. 28, at BC Place. Beginning at 1:30 p.m. (Pacific), the match features a television broadcast on ROOT SPORTS and local radio broadcasts on 750 AM/102.9 FM The Game (English) and La GranD 1150 AM/93.5 FM (Spanish).
Portland Timbers (15-9-9, 54pts) vs. Real Salt Lake (14-13-7, 49pts)
Oct. 21, 2018 - Providence Park (Portland, Ore.)
Goals by Half 1 2 F
Real Salt Lake 0 0 0
Portland Timbers 1 2 3
POR: Mabiala (Valeri), 15
POR: Chara (Blanco), 68
POR: Blanco (Melano), 87
RSL: Beckerman (caution), 27
POR: Valeri (caution), 64
POR: Blanco (caution), 68
POR: GK Clark, D Valentin, D Mabiala, D Ridgewell, D Villafaña, M Guzmán (Olum 76), M Chara, M Polo, M Valeri ©, M Blanco (Flores, 90), F Ebobisse (Melano, 85)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Attinella, D Tuiloma, D Powell, F Armenteros
TOTAL SHOTS: 16 (Blanco, 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 8 (Blanco, 4); FOULS: 15 (Chara, Valeri, 4); OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 6; SAVES: 5
RSL: GK Rimando, D Herrera (Baird, 72), D Glad, D M. Silva, D Lennon, M Sunny (Saucedo, 78), M Beckerman ©, M Rusnak, F Plata, F Savarino, F Kreilach
Substitutes Not Used: GK Putna, D Acosta, D Besler, D Onuoha, F L. Silva
TOTAL SHOTS: 12 (Beckerman, Savarino, 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Five players tied, 1); FOULS: 13 (Beckerman, 3); OFFSIDES: 2; CORNER KICKS: 10; SAVES: 5
Referee: Ismail Elfath
Assistant Referees: Ian Anderson, Chris Wattam
4th Official: Alejandro Mariscal
VAR: Edvin Jurisevic
Weather: Sunny, 70 degrees
All statistics contained in this box score are unofficial
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