Blanco-led Timbers show mental toughness
After an emotional draw against Colorado and an emotional win over LAFC, the Timbers close out a three-game home stand with a key Saturday match against Real Salt Lake.
Portland (fifth place, 37 points) and RSL (sixth place, 36 points) enter the week among five teams separated by five points in places four through eight in the MLS Western Conference. The match with RSL is sandwiched by two matches against another team in the middle of the conference standings: LAFC.
Portland edged LAFC 2-1 on Sunday to stretch its unbeaten run to five games. The Timbers and LAFC will see each other again Wednesday, Sept. 29, in Los Angeles.
The competitive desire the Timbers demonstrated Sept. 15 when they twice overcame a deficit to earn a 2-2 draw with Colorado — despite playing the second half with 10 men — is the kind of stuff that can define a season.
Sebastian Blanco's competitive fight has become the heartbeat of the Timbers.
"The energy that he brings is very important for us," coach Giovanni Savarese said, using the words "infectious" and contagious" to describe the enthusiasm Blanco brings to the pitch.
Not to be overlooked, Blanco's willingness to challenge teammates and to verbalize his expectations demands a level of accountability the team seemed to lack without Blanco.
Thorns at Chicago —Â The Thorns play only their second September match Saturday when they visit the Chicago Red Stars. But it's been a productive month for Portland, which enters this week six points ahead of the second-place team in the National Women's Soccer League.
It took a while to sort out, but the National Women's Soccer League on Sept. 16 awarded the Thorns a win over the Washington Spirit for the Sept. 4 match in Portland that was postponed because of COVID-19 issues with the Spirit.
Under FIFA rules, Portland is awarded a 3-0 win. The Thorns are 12-4-2 for 38 points from 18 games. Second-place OL Reign has 32 points from 19 games, and third-place North Carolina 29 points from 18 games.
Thorns season-ticket holders will get a credit to their account toward a 2022 home match. Those who purchased group or individual-game tickets receive a credit that can be used this season or in 2022.
In addition to the forfeit, the Spirit organization was fined $25,000 by the league for a breach of NWSL medical protocols.
The Thorns have six remaining regular-season games: the Sept. 25 game at Chicago and five games in October, three at home — beginning Oct. 2 against rival Reign FC.
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