Timbers fall at Minnesota
Ethan Finlay's penalty kick in the second minute of stoppage time gave Minnesota United a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers on Sunday at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Referee Chris Penso awarded the PK after a video review. Penso decided it showed Timbers defender Larrys Mabiala hit the ball with an extended arm trying to defend a Minnesota corner kick.
The result ended a seven-game unbeaten run in all competitions and left Portland below the seventh-place playoff line. The Timbers are 9-9-4 (31 points) and eighth in the MLS Western Conference. Minnesota United is 11-7-5 (38) and moved up to second in the conference pending Seattle's match with Sporting Kansas City later Sunday.
Finlay, a former teammate of Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark at Columbus, converted the penalty kick with a strong shot that Clark got both hands on but was unable to steer wide.
Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese disagreed with Penso's decision, noting Penso did not call the hand ball during the play and replays seen in the stadium and on ESPN's broadcast did not clearly and obviously show the ball hitting Mabiala's arm. Mabiala's arms were extended from his body, but there were no clear images publicly available that showed the hand ball.
Mabiala was not among the pack of Timbers who protested to Penso.
"When it's not clear and obvious, it's supposed to be the call stands. And it's not clear and obvious on the clip that we saw," Savarese said.
Played in temperatures pushing 90 degrees, hydration breaks were taken in each half. The game was sluggish throughout as both teams struggled to crisply move the ball in possession and construct meanful attacking combinations.
Each team did create a few chances. Portland's Brian Fernandez had a shot hit the post in the 78th minute. Shortly thereafter, Fernandez forced a save with a header and put a flick header across the goal mouth from a corner kick.
In the first half, Sebastian Blanco had the best chances for Portland. In the opening minutes, he found space in the left side of the penalty area after Fernandez forced a giveaway. Blanco's shot from a tough angle went just wide, and his left foot made contact on the follow-through with Ike Opara.
In the 15th minute, a Blanco shot from distance was tipped over the bar by goalkeeper Vito Mannone. And in the 29th minute, Minnone came up big on a rebound chance for Blanco after the keeper first blocked an attempt from Jorge Moreira.
Minnesota's best scoring chances came early in the second half, when Osvaldo Alonso and Miguel Ibarra badly mishit promising shots at goal. The Loons nearly broke through on the counterattack in the 85th minute, but Mason Toye's sliding effort went just wide of the post.
The game was statistically even except for fouls. The Timbers were called for 15 fouls to Minnesota's seven. And, four Timbers — Mabiala, Clark, Diego Chara and Julio Cascante — were shown yellow cards. Michael Boxall received a yellow card for Minnesota.
The teams will remain in St. Paul for Wednesday's 5 p.m. PT Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal match.
Portland then begins a string of 10 consecutive MLS home matches at 8 p.m. Saturday against Vancouver. The Timbers' only remaining MLS regular-season road game is Sept. 29 at Sporting Kansas City.
The question for Wednesday is how quickly Timbers players will recover from a difficult game in hot conditions, and what Savarese will do with his lineup.
Minnesota will have top scorer Darwin Quintero fresh for Wednesday after he sat out Sunday's match due to yellow-card accumulation.
The winner of Wednesday's Open Cup semifinal will play for the championship against either Orlando City or Orlando, who play their semifinal on Tuesday.
The Timbers would be on the road for the Open Cup final.
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