Timbers clinch playoff berth with 3-0 win over RSL
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Larrys Mabiala, Diego Chara and Sebastian Blanco scored and the Portland Timbers clinched a spot in the Major League Soccer playoffs with a 3-0 victory over Real Salt Lake on Sunday.
Both teams went into the game needing a win would secure a spot in the playoffs outright without help from other teams. Portland would also clinch with a tie.
“It feels good because it’s been hard work during the entire season, and the guys have worked very hard to get to this point,” said first-year Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese. “So I’m very proud for them.”
The Timbers won’t know where they’re seeded until next weekend’s final regular-season match against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
It was the final regular-season match for Real Salt Lake (14-13-7). The team will have to wait for the results of next week’s match between the Houston and LA Galaxy to see if they are going to the postseason, needing the Dynamo to either win or tie on the road.
“It’s not a good place to be, but we’re going to be the biggest Houston Dynamo fans that there has ever been,” RSL veteran midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. “We’ll be rooting them on and hopefully they can help us out.”
The Timbers (15-9-9) went up early when Mabiala punched in a goal off a free kick from Diego Valeri in the 15th minute. It was Mabiala’s fifth goal of the season.
Chara’s goal, his second this year, came in the 69th minute and Blanco sealed it with his goal in the 87th. .
It was the second of back-to-back games against RSL for the Timbers. Portland defeated RSL 4-1 in Salt Lake on Oct. 6 before the international break. RSL, however, played at home on Thursday night, beating the Revolution 4-1.
Real Salt Lake came into the match with three road wins this season. Damir Kreilach was the team’s top scorer in the regular season with 12 goals.
“It is what it is,” coach Mike Petke said. “One in a million chance now that we get to the playoffs. You know? That’s it.”
The Timbers were still without goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, who hurt his shoulder in a match against FC Dallas on Sept. 29. Steve Clark started his second straight game in goal for Portland.
Clark had a pair of impressive saves. The first came at the end of the first half when he stopped Kyle Beckerman’s header from the center of the box. The second came two minutes into the second half when he punched away defender Justen Glad’s point-blank shot following a corner.
RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando was clearly frustrated on the final goal of the match. It was Blanco’s 10th of the season, tying him for the team lead with Valeri. Blanco also had an assist.
“The first 20 minutes of the second half we didn’t play great. We took pressure and they moved way better than in the first half, and found space. But after the second goal we were calm and started to play better,” Blanco said.
There were four remaining playoff spots open at the start of the day. D.C. United and the Timbers clinched, which means two berths will be up for grabs next weekend on Decision Day. The Whitecaps were eliminated after a 2-2 draw against LAFC.