After a season that can be described as unique for the Portland Timbers, the season and their playoff hopes came down to the final game of the season against a San Jose Earthquakes team who were also fighting for their playoff lives. Portland sat in 6th place with 46 points. In 7th was FC Dallas with 45 points, and just below the playoff line was San Jose with 44 points.
Portland Timbers head coach, Giovanni Savarese before the game already had made a big move with Diego Valeri not even being named to the bench for the decisive match. Something that the Timbers Army noticed as chants of “Where’s Valeri?” echoed from the North end of Providence Park to start the match.
Portland though, looked more fluent in the attack than they have in the past month, with an attacking three of Jeremy Ebobisse, Sebastian Blanco, and Dairon Asprilla, there was a sense of urgency and purpose in their attack. The interchanging of the three allowed space for Cristhian Paredes and Andy Polo to join in the attack. Their attacking pressure paid off for Portland in the 29th minute off a second ball from a set piece when Asprilla played a ball out wide to Jorge Villafana, and the left back’s cross found Larrys Mabiala in the box as the center-back was able to put his foot to the ball and found the back of the net to give Portland a 1-0 lead.
In the 33rd minute a potential handball went to video review as Nick Lima looked to have had his arm hit the ball in the box, but at the end no PK was issued to the dismay of the Portland crowd.
San Jose would fight back against the run of play off a corner kick in the 40th minute as their captain and all time leading goal scorer, Chris Wondolowski, as his diving header found the back of the net and leaving the game all tied up entering the half.
Portland came out with an energy in the second half and their pressure on goal paid off in the 60th minute as Dairon Asprilla was able to beat his defender, and follow up his own rebound off the keeper to put the Timbers ahead 2-1. With San Jose needing two goals to keep their season alive, Portland were able to find gaps behind the defense and Paredes almost made it 3-1 when his shot found the hands of Daniel Vega.
As the game moved info the final 30 minutes and the Timbers leading 2 goals to 1, they switched their formation from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 with Asprilla dropping back to a winger role to dive the defense more support.
Sebastian Blanco made it 3-1 with a beautiful free kick in the 75th minute that found the upper corner of the goal and helped Portland lock in the 6th seed in the Western Conference where they will take on Real Salt Lake.
For San Jose, with no playoffs, the question will be what the future holds for their head coach, Matias Almeyda. Rumors rumbling that his future could be back in Mexico with Liga MX powerhouses Monterrey looking for his services.