Another frustrating Timbers result
The Portland Timbers continued treating the MLS playoff line as a tight rope on Sunday.
For the third consecutive game, the Timbers could not score a goal. This time, thanks to a stoppage time save from Steve Clark, they at least added a point to their total.
Despite taking 29 shots, the Timbers left Providence Park with a nil-nil draw with Minnesota United.
Portland is 13-13-5 (44 points) and sits in eighth place in the Western Conference with three matches left. The top seven teams advance to the single-elimination playoff tournament. The 44 points are tied with seventh-place San Jose, but the Earthquakes have scored five more goals and thus currently hold that final playoff ticket.
The way things are going, it's fair to wonder if Portland will score another goal in 2019.
Absurd? Perhaps, but the Timbers have now gone 270 minutes between goals, not including stoppage time.
Portland had its chances on Sunday, taking 20 shots from inside the penalty area and watching a shot from Sebastian Blanco and a chance for Cristhian Paredes bounce off the frame of the goal. There were 38 crosses, including the 10 corner kicks.
The frustration reached its pinnacle midway through the second half when a three-minute flurry produced four excellent scoring chances.
The frustration nearly became exasperation in the dying moments of stoppage time when a punt from Minnesota goalkeeper Vito Mannone slipped under the foot of Diego Chara sending Kevin Molino in on goal. Clark reacted to save the draw and one important point in the standings.
"It's a big point. It's a big save and I'm happy to do that," Clark said, describing it as an old-school hockey save. "He was in one-v-one but that's a strength of mine. So I just stood up and made him beat me."
The teams combined for 49 shots. Portland's 29 shots were the third most by a Timbers' MLS team and the 11 shots on goal tied for the second most in the Timbers MLS era.
"If you look at stats, it's incredible. Then if you analyze the game, I think there was a little bit of that step behind to get to the ball," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. "It's just because of tiredness. The schedule has been very tough."
It doesn't slow down with New England in town for a 7:30 p.m. Wednesday match, followed by a weekend trip to Sporting Kansas City. The season ends with an Oct. 6 home match against San Jose that could determine the playoff fate of each team.
Diego Valeri came off the bench in the 60th minute, limiting the wear on his legs. He replaced Brian Fernandez, who wasn't sharp and experienced some dizziness according to Savarese.
Among encouraging signs for Portland was Blanco going the distance and creating six scoring chances. He showed some rust after missing almost three full games but sent a series of quality crosses from the left wing.
Larrys Mabiala returned to central defense and helped keep the shutout. And Paredes, after being carried off on Wednesday with a scary looking leg injury, was fit to play when Andres Flores' eye swelled shut in the first half after catching a Mabiala boot.
"At the end of this game we came out very tired," Savarese said. "It's good that we have some guys back. Hopefully we can share some minutes. Just continue to fight and believe in ourselves."
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