Timbers hold off FC Dallas in second leg to win MLS Western Conference

The Portland Timbers defeated FC Dallas on Sunday to reach the MLS Cup final
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The Portland Timbers became the first franchise from the Pacific Northwest to win an MLS conference championship on Sunday. A 2–2 draw at FC Dallas sent Caleb Porter’s team through to the MLS Cup final with a 5–3 aggregate victory.

Fanendo Adi scored first in the 54th minute, putting away Diego Valeri’s cutback from the near the end line after Dairon Asprilla won the ball on the right flank. That goal followed a scoreless first half and came during a vital period just after halftime, in which a goal either way would have crucially shifted momentum.

When it happened, the goal looked to be the decisive blow in the series. Portland made the first half disappear while remaining relatively untroubled, though Adam Kwarasey needed to make a point-blank save on David Texeira’s close-range header in the 32nd minute.

However, Ryan Hollingshead’s 68th-minute strike, a composed one-touch finish off Mauro Díaz’s expertly curled ball in behind, gave Dallas some hope. Five minutes later, that hope grew as Díaz created another goal, bending a free kick into Blas Pérez’s path at the top of the six-yard box.

Dallas continued to press until the final whistle. Nat Borchers’s desperate sliding tackle on Pérez in the second minute of stoppage time, clearing a point-blank shooting chance, closed the door on the energized home team’s chances of another playoff comeback, and Lucas Melano’s finish in the 95th minute after a mazy dribble through the Dallas defense slammed it shut.

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And that’s also what will give either potential opponent, the New York Red Bulls or the Columbus Crew, trouble in the final. It’ll take another week of astute preparation from Porter and one final period of execution on the road from the players, but Portland will be difficult to beat on its current run of results and form.