Timbers Conclude 2018 Campaign with Second MLS Cup Appearance in Four Seasons
ATLANTA - Making their second trip to MLS Cup in the last four seasons, the Portland Timbers conceded a goal in each half, falling 2-0 to Atlanta United FC in the 2018 MLS Cup before a league-record crowd of 73,019 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday evening. Josef Martínez registered a goal for Atlanta late in the first half and Franco Escobar tallied Atlanta's second goal early in the second half to help secure the win.
Making their fourth trip to the MLS Cup Playoffs in the last six seasons, the Timbers won their second Western Conference Championship in four seasons, while becoming one of just three teams to appear in three conference championships (2013, 2015, 2018) since 2013.
Portland appeared in its second MLS Cup final in four seasons (2015, 2018). Saturday's match was the third final the Timbers have played in since becoming a club in 1975 (1975 Soccer Bowl, 2015 MLS Cup Final). Portland is now 8-5-5 all-time in MLS Cup Playoff matches.
The Timbers held Atlanta to nine shots in the match. That was the lowest shot total by a home team in an MLS Cup final. In addition, it tied the lowest shot total by Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
MLS Cup appearances
Four players started in their second MLS Cup for Portland (Diego Valeri, Diego Chara, Liam Ridgewell and Jorge Villafaña). In addition, three other players (Dairon Asprilla, Lucas Melano and Alvas Powell) made their second appearance in MLS Cup for the Timbers, making substitute appearances against Atlanta. A total of seven players made their MLS Cup debuts in the match, including Jeremy Ebobisse, Andy Polo, Sebastián Blanco, David Guzmán, Larrys Mabiala, Jeff Attinella and Zarek Valentin.
Savarese in his first year
In his first MLS season, head coach Giovanni Savarese recorded 15 wins during the regular season, which is tied for the third-most wins by a first-year head coach. In addition, Savarese is one of three head coaches since 2000 to register 18 or more wins, including playoffs, in his first year as a head coach in the league. Notably, Savarese is just the second head coach in the last 14 seasons to advance to MLS Cup in his first year in MLS. Dating back to his time as the head coach of the New York Cosmos in NASL, Savarese has led his team to the league final five times in six seasons.
Attinella came up with a key save in the 29th minute. On the counter-attack, Atlanta played the ball out wide on the left side to Greg Garza, who delivered a cross into the center of the box. Miguel Almirón jumped and unleashed a sideways kick toward the top left corner of the goal, but Attinella jumped high to his right to push the ball wide of the goal.
In the 39th minute, Atlanta claimed a 1-0 lead as Martínez scored the opening goal of the match. Michael Parkhurst won the ball near midfield with a slide tackle, pushing the ball forward with a long pass to Martínez near the edge of the box. Martinez dribbled into the box and converted from a tight angle near the right post.
Looking to level the match, Portland generated a scoring chance in the 43rd minute. Valeri slipped a pass between two Atlanta defenders for Blanco making a late run into the box. Blanco drifted out wide to the right and served a cross into the box for Ebobisse, who directed a header on frame from point-blank range, forcing a save by Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
The Timbers generated the first chance of the second half. Earning a corner kick, Valeri curled the ball into the box for Ridgewell near the penalty spot. Ridgewell had two chances from close range in the 52nd minute, but both attempts were blocked.
Atlanta doubled its lead in the 54th minute of the match on a set piece. Almirón played the ball into the center of the box from the left wing and it was flicked on by Martínez to Escobar at the back post and he sent a sliding shot into the back of the net from close range.
Pushing for a goal in the second half, Blanco received a pass from Valeri near the edge of the box. Settling the ball, Blanco found space inside the box and fired a dipping strike, but Guzan made the stop in the 62nd minute.
The Timbers switched the point of attack with a long diagonal ball from the left wing to find Valeri in the 73rd minute running down the right side of the field. He settled the ball and sent a powerful strike that swerved just wide of the right post.
Portland appeared in its second MLS Cup final in four seasons (2015, 2018).
Saturday's match was the third final the Timbers have played in since becoming a club in 1975 (1975 Soccer Bowl, 2015 MLS Cup Final).
The match was the 900th competitive match in the history of the club, dating back to the club's original match in 1975.
Diego Valeri, Diego Chara, Liam Ridgewell and Jorge Villafaña all earned starts in their second MLS Cup for the Timbers.
Dairon Asprilla, Lucas Melano and Alvas Powell all came off the bench to make their second appearance in an MLS Cup final.
Jeremy Ebobisse, Andy Polo, Sebastián Blanco, David Guzmán, Larrys Mabiala, Jeff Attinella, and Zarek Valentin all made their MLS Cup debuts in the match.
Valentin finished the season with 40 matches played in all competitions, one shy of the record for most games played (41) by a Timbers player in a single season in all eras of the club.
Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs | MLS Cup
Portland Timbers vs. Atlanta United FC
Dec. 8, 2018 - Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta, Ga.)
Goals by Half 1 2 F
Portland Timbers 0 0 0
Atlanta United FC 1 1 2
ATL: Martínez, 39
ATL: Escobar (Martínez, Almirón), 54
POR: Chara (caution), 80
ATL: McCann (caution), 90+43
POR: GK Attinella, D Valentin, D Mabiala, D Ridgewell, D Villafaña, M Chara, M Guzmán (Powell, 82), M Polo (Asprilla, 68), M Valeri ©, M Blanco, F Ebobisse (Melano, 59)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Clark, D Tuiloma, M Olum, M Flores
TOTAL SHOTS: 8 (Ridgewell, Valeri, 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Three players tied, 1); FOULS: 13 (Melano, 3); OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 2; SAVES: 2
ATL: GK Guzan, D Escobar, D Larentowicz, D Parkhurst ©, D González, D Garza (McCann, 90+1), M Nagbe, M Remedi, M Gressel, F Martínez (Villalba, 76), F Almirón (Barco, 90)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Kann, D Robinson, M Kratz, F Vázquez
TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (Martínez, 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (Martínez, 2); FOULS: 12 (Almirón, Escobar, 3); OFFSIDES: 2; CORNER KICKS: 2; SAVES: 3
Referee: Alan Kelly
Assistant Referees: Ian Anderson, Eric Weisbrod
4th Official: Nima Saghafi
RAR: Kathryn Nesbitt
VAR: Chris Penso
AVAR: Thomas Supple
All statistics contained in this box score are unofficial
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