Timbers Beat Union to Reach 2020 MLS Is Back Tournament Final

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2020

Portland Timbers forward Jeremy Ebobisse, left, and Philadelphia Union defender Jack Elliott vie for the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

The Portland Timbers are heading to the MLS is Back Tournament Finals.

Led by goals from Jeremy Ebobisse and Sebastian Blanco, Portland knocked off the Philadelphia Union 2-1 Wednesday night. Andrew Wooten scored the lone goal for Philly.

That put Portland in the Tuesday final (8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN), where they'll await the winner of Orlando City SC vs. Minnesota United FC. Those clubs square off Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

The Timbers struck first. After Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake barely saved Marvin Loria's effort and pushed it out of play, Portland earned a corner. The Union lost track of Ebobisse, and he found himself with a free header in the middle of the box, burying it to put Portland ahead in the 13th minute.

Major League Soccer @MLS

EBOBISSE GIVES PORTLAND THE LEAD @kingjebo's 4th goal gives @TimbersFC the 1-0 advantage. #PHIvPOR https://t.co/uPelOzFcY3

The Union had a chance to tie the game in first-half stoppage time after Blanco fouled Jamiro Monteiro, but Sergio Santos skied the penalty over the goal, wasting a crucial chance for Philly.

The game settled into a familiar pattern in the second half. The Union held the majority of the possession but struggled to break down Portland's defense or create meaningful chances. The Timbers would then look to hit on the counter once they regained possession, taking advantage of the numbers Philly was pushing forward.

Portland's ability to neutralize Philly's dangerous, lightning-quick attacks proved crucial in keeping the Union off the board for most of the contest. Namely, young star Brenden Aaronson was mostly kept quiet, though the Union have struggled in the past to beat teams that bunker down and condense into the center of the pitch. It was a trend that repeated itself Wednesday, even as Philly held 62 percent of possession.

Micah Rice @col_mrice

Philadelphia Union vs. Timbers defense and Steve Clark tonight. #RCTID https://t.co/Z2GU2N00tg

And it was another corner that led to the Timbers' second goal.

Yet again, Blake made a big save to create the corner, pushing aside Andy Polo's curling effort from the edge of the box. But on the ensuing corner, Dario Zuparic headed the ball down to the left of the box, finding Blanco all by his lonesome. The ball bounced up to Blanco's head, and he guided it into the net, doubling the Timbers' lead.

Major League Soccer @MLS

Another Portland corner. Another Portland goal! It's 2-0! Sebastian Blanco now has 3 goals & 5 assists in the tournament. #PHIvPOR https://t.co/C0A7xXOoCy

Blanco has had quite the tournament for the Timbers:

OptaJack⚽️ @OptaJack

8 - Sebastian Blanco has been directly involved in 8 of @TimbersFC's 12 goals at #MLSisBack (3 goals, 5 assists), including at least one in all six matches. Everywhere. https://t.co/bgDukJqtlc

But the Union weren't done and dusted. After pushing several free kicks well over the frame earlier in the contest, Monteiro finally tested Steve Clark in the 85th minute, forcing a save from the goalkeeper. That created a big rebound for Wooten, who buried it to cut the deficit in half.

Major League Soccer @MLS

THEY HAVE LIFE! Wooten pounces and @PhilaUnion are only down 1-2 with a few minutes left. #PHIvPOR https://t.co/nRcDUtPKk7

Moments later the Union appeared to have potentially drawn even, as Kacper Przybylko found the back of the net off a lovely pass by Aaronson. He was ruled offside on the pitch, and replay confirmed the call, though it was incredibly close and likely gave Timbers fans a brief heart stoppage.

keith costigan @KeithCostigan

And first time Aaronson goes to find the game and be aggressive with his decision something good happens.

Ives Galarcep @SoccerByIves

Though #DOOP will come away from this loss disappointed at not playing better, they still had their shots and pushed Portland to the brink. Impressed at how Brenden Aaronson looked late when the urgency kicked after Portland's 2nd goal. He nearly willed the comeback.

It was a nervy final few moments for Portland, and Alejandro Bedoya had space outside of the box on what would prove to be the final touch of the game. But he hit a pedestrian shot that Clark easily saved, sending Portland to the final.