Rapids blank Timbers
The Portland Timbers were not at their sharpest on Wednesday, Nov. 4, and saw their grip on first place in the Western Conference slip with one match remaining on the MLS schedule.
The Colorado Rapids pounced on a Portland turnover for a late goal from Kellyn Acosta to beat the Timbers 1-0 at Providence Park. The result clinched a playoff spot for the Rapids and means Portland will need help to finish first in the West.
The Timbers have a tough final match, taking on Los Angeles FC at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8, on the road (FS1 TV). A win there might get Portland back atop the conference, if Sporting Kansas City does not win at Real Salt Lake.
With points-per-game deciding the final standings, Portland enters Decision Day in second place (1.73). Seattle, which drew 1-1 with the LA Galaxy on Wednesday, is in third place (1.71). The Timbers are 11-6-5 and will be one of only four teams in the West to play all 23 matches, if they play on Sunday.
First-place Sporting Kansas City is at Real Salt Lake on Sunday and Seattle is home against San Jose. All Decision Day games in the Western Conference kick off at 3:30 p.m.
Portland will definitely be without Diego Chara for the decisive match. His yellow card-earned covering for a Williamson giveaway means the midfielder will be suspended for caution accumulation.
Acosta's goal in the 83rd minute came at a time when the Timbers were dictating play. But a couple unusually sloppy passes from Diego Chara cost Portland possession in a bad spot and Colorado capitalized. Diego Rubio intercepted a Chara pass and started the quick sequence. He then delivered the touch pass that gave Acosta the opportunity to get Bill Tuiloma, playing in place of Larrys Mabiala, to lean the wrong way and give goalkeeper Steve Clark no chance.
Portland did not produce a shot on goal and was shut out for the first time since a 3-0 loss to Seattle on Aug. 23 in the first game of the MLS restart. Portland, which has clinched at least one home playoff match, finishes with a record of 6-4-2 in matches at Providence Park (including one playing as the visiting team against Vancouver).
Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese was correct to say that his team was not the best version of itself against the Rapids.
"I think (the Rapids) worked very hard to get the result that they got," Savarese said. They sacrificed, and they understood the importance of winning this game. But I think it's more about us and what we didn't do."
Specifically, Savarese pointed to three promising moments in the first half with Eryk Williamson, Andy Polo and Felipe Mora working into dangerous areas but not creating even a shot.
"We lacked a little bit of sharpness" in making the decisive pass in attacking situations, Savarese said.
With Wednesday's match sandwiched between a Nov. 1 win over Vancouver and the upcoming trip to Los Angeles, Savarese rotated his lineup.
Portland started with Diego Valeri and Yimmi Chara on the bench, with Williamson in Valeri's attacking midfield spot and Cristhian Paredes alongside Diego Chara.
In the scoreless first half, the Rapids were the sharper side and had a few half chances, including a 12th-minute volley from Andre Shinyashiki that went high. In the 16th minute, Colorado was originally awarded a penalty kick. But the video showed the ball came off of Tuiloma's foot before hitting his hand and referee Joseph Dickerson reversed his decision after video review.
The Timbers were rushed with their decisions on the ball and indecisive in their movement away from the ball during the first half. Their most dangerous moments came in transition, but every time they got the ball inside the 18-yard box, the right pass eluded them.
Savarese said the most important halftime message was "that we needed to be sharper, quicker. We needed to want it a little bit more."
Portland was the better team for long stretches of the second half, after Yimmi Chara replaced Andres Flores on the wing at halftime, and especially after Valeri replace Williamson in the 55th minute. The Valeri move might have been influence by making sure Williamson also wasn't suspended for the weekend, but the impact he made was clear.
Valeri was credited with creating five chances in his 40 minutes on the field.
Dairon Asprilla, who was expected to be out for the season, came on for the final few minutes and nearly scored a tying goal. His quick turn off a feed from Jorge Villafana produced a shot in tight quarters that glanced off the post. It was the first action for the Colombian attacker since he suffered a knee injury during the March 1 season opener. He was expected to miss the whole season, but with the schedule continuing into November, Asprilla worked his way back onto the field.
Given the season-ending injuries to Sebastian Blanco and Jaroslaw Niezgoda, Asprilla could become a valuable playoff contributor — as he has a history of doing.
"Having Asprilla back is great for us and comes at a perfect moment," Savarese said.
Portland was without forward Jeremy Ebobisse (concussion) for the third consecutive game, but Savarese sounded hopeful after the match that Ebobisse can be available for Sunday's match at LAFC.
• Gresham native Marco Farfan started and played 68 minutes at left back, but left with an apparent lower back injury.
• In addition to Colorado, San Jose clinched a playoff spot. on Wednesday with a 2-1 win over LAFC, meaning the eight teams are set for the West playoffs. The MLS Cup Playoffs are scheduled to begin Nov. 20.
• Former Portland Pilot Benji Michel scored the decisive goal as Orlando City, playing with 10 men, knocked Columbus from the Supporters' Shield race with a 2-1 Wednesday win.
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