Adam Larsen Kwarasey’s Portland Timbers are just a game away from playing for the 2015 MLS Cup following a resounding victory in the first leg of the Conference finals late Sunday night.
The Ghana goalkeeper conceded a vital away goal to Dallas but his team’s three goals response in attack meant the Timbers can be confident ahead of the decisive second leg.
Right now, the Portland Timbers look like a team that is bound for the MLS Cup.
The Timbers beat top-seeded FC Dallas 3-1 with a dominant performance in the first leg of the Western Conference Championship series Sunday in front of 21,144 fans at Providence Park.
“I can’t say enough about the guys,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said. “They are the ones doing it. That’s seven games (unbeaten) now and I think there’s still another level in there.”
Portland will travel to Dallas for the second and final leg of the aggregate-score series next Sunday holding a two-goal lead over FC Dallas. The game will kickoff at 2 p.m.
Heading into Sunday’s match, there were questions as to whether the Timbers could come alive on offense without two of their top attacking players in playmaker Diego Valeri and winger Rodney Wallace, who were both suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
But the Timbers entered the game riding a six-game unbeaten streak and feeling immensely confident. The lineup changes weren’t much of a factor.
“For guys to be able to come in and start for us, who maybe aren’t considered regulars, and get the job done… that just shows how special this group is,” Timbers defender Nat Borchers said.
The Timbers attacked and pressured Dallas from the opening whistle and it seemed like it was only a matter of time before they would find the go-ahead goal.
Portland finally broke through in the 23rd minute when Dairon Asprilla headed a corner kick from Darlington Nagbe down in the box for Liam Ridgewell, who essentially walked the ball into the back of the net.
“It was nice to get one,” Ridgewell said. “There was no chance the keeper was going to stop that one… It was going in no matter what.”
After a nearly flawless first half performance, the Timbers extended their lead in the second half when Asprilla sent a beautiful shot from distance into the far corner of the net, freezing Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez and giving the Timbers a strong 2-0 lead.
“Dallas is a very good team, so we needed those goals,” Timbers forward Fanendo Adi said. “Now, we’re in a very good situation.”
But shortly after Portland’s second goal, the game shifted in Dallas’ direction.
Ridgewell went down with a tight calf in the 61st minute and left the game as Argentine center back Norberto Paparatto came on in his place. Ridgewell said he should be healthy and ready to play in the second leg next Sunday.
Dallas quickly took advantage of the defensive change as David Texeira sent a close-range shot past Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey in the 62nd minute to cut Portland’s lead to one goal and give Dallas an important away goal.
But the Timbers fought back.
Paparatto headed a ball down after a corner kick from Nagbe in the 90th minute. As Gonzalez struggled to try to get his hand on the ball, Borchers managed to kick the ball into the net to give Portland the decisive 3-1 lead.
The 3-1 win puts the Timbers in a great position heading into the second leg of the series as they vie for a spot in the MLS Cup.
And the Timbers are beginning to truly feel like this could be their year to win a trophy.
“We are a good enough team to do it,” Ridgewell said.
Credit: Oregon Live Follow @thedonplato
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