Timbers advance to Open Cup semifinals
The Portland Timbers will play in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals for only the second time after a stirring win over the best team in MLS.
Jeremy Ebobisse scored in the 84th minute as the Timbers stunned high-flying Los Angeles FC 1-0 on Wednesday at Banc of America Stadium.
Portland's road to its first Open Cup title will require two more road wins.
A draw held Thursday morning determined that Portland will play on the road at Minnesota United on Aug. 7 in the semifinals.
If the Timbers win in the semifinals, they will play at either Atlanta United or Orlando City FC in the championship game in late August.
Portland has never advanced past the Open Cup semifinal round.
Shutting out high-powered LAFC three days after blanking another top attacking team at New York City FC is one impressive road double for Portland, which has shutouts in five of its last six matches across the Open Cup and MLS play.
Both teams used strong lineups on Wednesday in what is becoming a spicy rivalry. LAFC, which is nine points clear of second place in the MLS Western Conference, had 61.4 percent of possession, but it was Portland with the more dangerous scoring chances.
Though he didn't score for the second game in a row, Brian Fernandez was involved in the goal. As. Fernandez dribbled along the top of the 18-yard box, a recovering Jordan Harvey poked the ball away, but right into the path of Ebobisse, whose calm finish clipped the inside of the post.
Ebobisse was in an offside position, but the goal was legal because LAFC's Harvey played the ball last before it reached the Timbers forward.
The win wasn't secure until Timbers defender Zarek Valentin blocked a bicycle kick from LAFC's Carlos Vela in the dying seconds of six stoppage-time minutes.
Assistant coach Carlos Llamosa served as the Timbers manager as Giovanni Savarese was away because of what the team described as an urgent health matter for Savarese's father in Italy.
As was the case in Sunday's 1-0 win at New York City FC, the Timbers stayed organized in the defensive third and effectively limited real scoring looks for LAFC to a couple of free kicks around the 18-yard box, one dicey corner kick and a couple of scramble plays.
If not for the play of LAFC goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega, who made five saves, the Timbers would have had the lead in the first half.
In the 30th minute, Cristhian Paredes dribbled out of midfield and forced goalkeeper to dive to his left to block a low shot.
On the ensuing corner, Larrys Mabiala didn't quite get all of his 10-yard right-footed shot that Sisniega went low to block, and Fernandez couldn't get to the rebound. Another corner kick came, and Marvin Loria's delivery was struck solidly by a Mabiala header that went right at Sisniega.
The best first-half chance came to Loria, who had a great look on a wonderful counterattack but sent ii wide in the 36th minute.
In the second half, a sliding block by Harvey denied Fernandez from inside the penalty area at the end of a Portland counter. Moments later, Sebastian Blanco had a shot from inside the penalty area go right at Sisniega.
Steve Clark made only one save in goal for Portland, but his defenders made a series of critical interventions.
Loria started in place of Diego Valeri, who replaced the rookie in the 74th minute. Otherwise, the Timbers' lineup featured players who are regulars in the starting lineup.
Ditto for LAFC, which was coming off a 6-1 rout of Vancouver on Saturday and must turn around Friday and play a MLS match at Houston. But the Timbers held the team averaging 2.6 goals per game in league play to that single shot on goal. Carlos Vela, who leads MLS with 19 goals and 12 assists, took only two shots.
The Timbers return to MLS play on Saturday with an 8 p.m. match at Providence Park against Colorado.
Portland will face Minnesota United twice in four days in early August. The Timbers play at Minnesota on Aug. 4, and the teams will play their Open Cup semifinal match on Aug. 7, either in Minnesota or at Providence Park.
Minnesota United beat the USL Championship club New Mexico United 6-1 on Wednesday.
The other semifinal will match Atlanta United against Orlando City. Atlanta topped second-division side St. Louis FC 2-0, and Orlando City eliminated New York City FC on penalty kicks after the teams played to a 1-1 draw through 120 minutes.
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