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