Portland Timbers: The Argentinian Connection

 

An enthralling clash between Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City ended in the favour of the former, as the Argentinian duo Sebastian Blanco and Diego Valeri propelled them into the MLS Cup final.

Sporting Kansas City looked set to continue dominating proceedings after storming into the lead inside 20 minutes. The attacking trio of Daniel Salloi, Johnny Russell and Diego Rubio inflicted havoc on the Timbers’ rear-guard and they were fortunate to retain a one-goal deficit at the interval.
The officials had chalked off two goals from the hosts during the first half. Both Ike Opara and Diego Rubio were rightfully deemed offside, but the pure velocity and intensity of Sporting KC’s build-up play had the nerves jangling inside the Portland Timbers camp.
Portland Timbers appeared rejuvenated during the opening exchanges of the second half and a moment of magic from Sebastian Blanco hauled them back into contention. He breezed into a prosperous position from the left channel and unleashed a sumptuous cannon into the far top corner from improbable range.
This injected much-needed belief into the players and Diego Valeri, who was far from enjoying the best of performances, struck them into the lead on the hour-mark. Sporting KC required two goals to reach the MLS Cup final and introduced the lightning quick Gerso Fernandes in place of the goal scorer Salloi.
Supporters seemed perplexed by the decision and tempers boiled over amongst the home supporters as play was stopped due to a number of objects being thrown onto the pitch. The referee requested Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes to plead with the supporters to behave in a suitable manner.
It gifted both sets of players an opportunity to recuperate and the battle recommenced when play resumed. Sporting KC searched desperately for an equalizer and Fernandes provided it with an unyielding finish into the bottom corner.
Fernandes’ goal provided an exciting climax to what had been an intriguing affair, but Valeri concluded a dramatic counter-attack to confirm their passage to the final. They took a pragmatic approach against a highly offensive Sporting KC and the prolificacy of their Argentinian heroes proved decisive.

The Importance of Blanco & Valeri

Blanco and Valeri have both been paramount to the success of Portland Timbers in 2018. They’ve scored a combined total of 28 goals in all competitions, including a staggering seven goals during the MLS play-offs.
Valeri featured in the previous squad to win the MLS Cup in 2015 and has been a crucial figure at Portland Timbers for the last five years. He started his career in his native Argentina with Lanus until spending two loan spells in Europe with FC Porto and Almeria.
Sadly, Valeri was unable to make a positive impression in Europe and opted to move to Major League Soccer. It’s a decision that he hasn’t regretted and he’s become somewhat of a cult hero at Providence Park.
He’s finished as the club’s all-time top goalscorer with 77 goals in and he’s currently leading the scoring charts for The Timbers this campaign. His loyalty and effort for the club has been acknowledged by the staff and being voted captain was a testament to his career with The Timbers.
His Argentinian compatriot Sebastien Blanco arrived at the beginning of the 2017 season, but he’s made a decisive impact in his brief time with the club. Blanco also started out with Lanus in Argentina but failed to replicate his promising form with spells at Metalist Kharkiv and West Bromwich Albion.
He returned to Argentina after just four years in Europe and rejuvenated his career in his homeland until taking on a new challenge with Portland Timbers. His debut season ended with a respectable eight goals, but he’s further exceeded expectations by finding the net 14 times and providing 11 assists.

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