Portland centerbacks Liam Ridgewell and Nat Borchers exploited FC Dallas on corner kicks and Dairon Asprilla scored a great goal as the Western
Conference regular-season champion went down to defeat, to the Timbers 3-1. FCD got a goal from David Texeira but need to overturn a two-goal deficit at home in the second leg on
Here are three takeaways from the first leg match at a typically frenzied Providence Park.
Porter gets selections and tactics right.
Portland prevailed in the first leg, 3-1, despite the absences of playmaker Diego Valeri and
winger Rodney Wallace. Faced with thorny decisions in a crucial situation, Timbers head coach Caleb Porter got his selections and tactics right.
To replace Wallace, Porter chose to start Lucas Melano, who had started the first two games of the playoffs before giving way to Asprilla up front for the second game against
Vancouver, and added Jack Jewsbury to the midfield mix in tandem with Darlington Nagbe and Diego Chara. Jewsbury brought enough savvy and work rate to complement Chara’s
holding attributes and Nagbe’s acumen of connecting front to back.
Nagbe slipped a through ball in the opening minute that Melano failed to
convert but that early chance signaled overpowering momentum for the home team. Asprilla and Melano carried much of the play and won the battle of the flanks for the first hour of match, which limited
the opportunities for Fabian Castillo and Michael Barrios to attack the Portland back line.
Nagbe swung over a pair of corner kicks FCD couldn’t deal with. Asprilla got his head to one midway through the first
half and Ridgewell, storming through the goalmouth, ran through the bouncing ball to force it into the net. In stoppage time, with the score, 2-1, Nagbe’s corner kick was headed
hard at goal by Norberto Paparatto, who had replaced an injured Ridgewell, and when FCD keeper Jesse Gonzalez couldn’t smother it, Borchers poked it into the net.
Asprilla started only 10 of 26 games in the regular season and scored just one goal, but early in the second half he blasted an incredible winner. Zach Loyd
tracked down a ball intended for Adi but then played it straight to Asprilla, who pushed it forward and struck a wickedly swerving shot that glanced off the underside of the crossbar on its way into
2. FCD can’t follow up on quick goal after Ridgewell departure.
After Asprilla’s goal, FCD managed to apply some attacking pressure and when a leg injury forced Ridgewell out of the game in the 61st minute, FCD scored right away when Texeira
cut in front of Paparatto to nick in a cross from Je-Vaughn Watson. But as Portland scrambled to regain its equilibrium, FCD squandered several chances at a second goal.
Barrios fired wide and Castillo and Mauro Diaz did well to make space for themselves but hit their shots right at Timbers keeper Adam Kwarasey. FCD brought
on Tesho Akindele, who bounced a header wide right after coming into the match, and Blas Perez as attacking subs to no avail.
goal offers FCD a chance to advance by winning the home leg, 2-0, which would tie the aggregate at 3-3. It beat Portland, 4-1, at Toyota Stadium in July.
3. Family tragedy shakes FC
Preparations for the first leg in Portland were disrupted Thursday when Martha Pareja, mother of head coach Oscar Pareja,
passed away in their native Colombia.
Pareja left the team and didn’t return until late Saturday. The team had traveled to Portland without
him on Friday. Shortly before kickoff, Pareja and the Timbers' Porter shook hands and briefly embraced at midfield.
TRIVIA. Borchers’ goal in the first minute of stoppage time is the 20th, including playoffs, scored by Portland this season in the 76th minute or later. Max Urruti tallied
in overtime in the knockout round match against Sporting Kansas City, and Chara scored in stoppage time of the Timbers’ 2-0 defeat of Vancouver in the conference semifinals. Toronto FC and New
York City FC were the other teams to tally 17 goals in the last quarter of an hour (plus stoppage time) during the regular season