Timbers out of Open Cup
The Portland Timbers pursuit of their first Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is over.
Mason Toye's goal in the 64th minute was the difference as Minnesota United beat visiting Portland 2-1 on Wednesday in an Open Cup semifinal at Allianz Field in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Brian Fernandez scored for Portland in first-half stoppage time the Timbers nearly tied it in second-half stoppage time but didn't get a friendly bounce off the post.
Minnesota United will play for the Cup title on Aug. 27 at Atlanta United, a match that features the two MLS 2017 expansion teams.
This was the second time the Timbers have advanced as far as the semifinal round of the Open Cup. They have never reached the final.
Fernandez tied it just before halftime. The forward snuck between defenders and received a one-touch pass from Jeremy Ebobisse in open space seven yards from goal.
That goal built momentum for a Timbers side that was carrying play for the final 20 minutes before halftime. Portland had the better of the game through its middle portion and had several chances to take the lead after halftime, the best of them a curling attempt by Dairon Asprilla that forced Minnesota goalkeeper Vito Mannone to lay out to reach with his left hand.
The go-ahead goal came moments later as Kevin Molina lofted a pass out of his own half for Toye to track down. Toye easily outran Claude Dielna, settled the ball well and perfectly curved his shot beyond the reach of goalkeeper Steve Clark.
The goal not only gave Minnesota the lead, but turned the match momentum the way of the home team as Portland struggled from then on to create quality attacks.
Still, the Timbers were inches from tying the game in the fourth minute of stoppage time. A cross from the right side bounced off of Minnesota keeper Mannone, then bounced off of Diego Valeri and off the inside of the post but was cleared out of the goal mouth.
Minnesota converted a penalty kick in the 21st minute, Darwin Quintero putting the ball inside the left post. Dielna committed the handball foul, reacting to a free kick and raising his arm to protect his face. The call was correct. The bigger problem was Dielna's unnecessary foul on Toye to create the free kick.
Portland picked up its play after falling behind and was the more proactive side during the second half of the first half. The Timbers best chance prior to the Fernandez goal was a near own-goal off the head of Minnesota's Romain Metanire, who forced a strong save from goalkeeper Vito Mannone.
The Timbers, partly because of several poorly taken free kicks, struggled to create chances in the first half before Fernandez scored at the end of a quick combination of passes.
The silver lining for the Timbers is there will be no Aug. 27 trip to Atlanta. Portland will play its next 10 MLS matches at home, and 11 of its 12 remaining league contests at Providence Park.
First is a Saturday night game against the Vancouver Whitecaps. The third game in seven days figures to provide a challenge for Portland in a contest that is significant in the Cascadia Cup competition and in the MLS standings as the Timbers aim to take advantage of their home-heavy slate to climb into strong playoff position.
Coming off a difficult 1-0 league loss at Minnesota on Sunday, many of the usual first-choice Timbers started Wednesday's match and went the distance. One exception was Valeri, who entered in the 72nd minute replacing Asprilla. Midfielder Cristhian Paredes started and played 66 minutes.
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