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Timbers book Western Conference final berth with shootout win over Sounders

theScore logo theScore 2018-11-09 Tom Nightingale
a group of people playing football on a field © Icon Sportswire / Getty

The Portland Timbers eventually booked their place in the MLS Western Conference final by beating the Cascadian rival Seattle Sounders on penalties (4-2) after a 3-2 second-leg loss sealed a 4-4 aggregate draw.

After a pedestrian first half, Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella's horrible error gifted a seemingly crucial away goal to Raul Ruidiaz, before Sebastian Blanco drilled home from the edge of the box with 12 minutes remaining to hand the aggregate advantage back to the Timbers.

Ruidiaz smashed home on the volley in the 93rd minute to send the tie to extra time, where both sides would find the net again. Dairon Asprilla headed the Timbers back in front before Nicolas Lodeiro converted from the spot after a handball.

With away goals off the table in extra time, Ruidiaz had a 113th-minute goal ruled out for a handball before the Timbers stole victory in the shootout, scoring four penalties to the Sounders' two.

It was a wild finish to a rollercoaster game which had started relatively tamely.

The Sounders knew a 1-0 win would see them through and began the game on the front foot, looking to supply Ruidiaz as often as possible. After a subdued first hour, all hell broke loose on 68 minutes when visiting goalkeeper Attinella gifted the opening goal to Ruidiaz by failing to hold onto a routine cross.

That lead lasted just 10 minutes, however, before Blanco tied things up and handed the advantage back to Portland with an arrowed strike from the edge of the box.

The Timbers nearly put the game out of sight on the counterattack but were denied by an excellent Stefan Frei save, but down the other end, Ruidiaz pounced to necessitate an extra 30 minutes.

The game twisted and turned again, and though Portland succumbed 3-2 on the night, Attinella redeemed himself with a big stop in the shootout, and it was left to Asprilla to convert the deciding penalty and send the visitors into delirium.

Portland will face either Real Salt Lake or Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference final. Those teams are tied 1-1 after their first leg, with the return fixture to be played on Sunday.

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