Dynamo destroy Timbers' goal
A Portland Timbers team that rolled into the postseason atop the MLS Western Conference was a shadow of itself by the time it walked off Providence Park on Sunday.
Houston put an end to the Timbers season by beating Portland 2-1 in the second leg of the conference semifinals.
Despite scoring the first goal, Portland couldn't overcome a stunning rash of injuries and a couple of perfectly-placed Dynamo daggers.
The biggest was a half-volley by defender Dylan Remick that tied the score 1-1 just before halftime. The goal came on a Houston free kick and gave the Dynamo the upper hand because of the away-goal tiebreaker.
The first leg of the series was a scoreless draw at Houston.
Remick's goal came only four minutes after Dairon Asprilla gave the Timbers a 1-0 lead in the 39th minute.
"Dylan is very good finishing. I know that because I've been watching him the whole year in practices," Houston coach Wilmer Cabrera said. "We're good on set pieces. We have confidence."
Remick scored his second goal of the season when he struck a loose second ball on a play that started with a Dynamo free kick taken by Tomas Martinez, giving Portland goalie Jeff Attinella no chance to make a save. Jalil Anibaba headed the initial ball down for Remick to crack home.
It was a fine shot, but the Timbers needed to react quicker to the ball.
"It was the second ball that eluded us, and when it fell we should have cleared that one, but we didn't," Timbers captain Liam Ridgewell said.
Remick was the defender Asprilla eluded on the Timbers goal. Off a quick buildup, Vytas whipped in a sharp cross from the left wing, Asprilla shook free of Remick and smashed home a 6-yard shot.
The lead didn't last long.
Remick was in the game because DaMarcus Beasley came up injured on Saturday and he made his chance count.
Mauro Manotas put the finishing touch on the win with a 30-yard strike in the 77th minute for the 2-1 margin. But it was the set-piece goal just before halftime that turned the match, and the series, for Houston.
"The killer was their first goal," Timbers coach Caleb Porter said. "We get into the half 1-0, the second half they have to come out because they would need a goal to go through and that played into our hands. Instead, we get stunned against the run a with a goal."
With the away-goal tiebreaker in their favor, the Dynamo could play to their strength by crowding the defensive third. Other than a free kick for Diego Valeri early in the second half that was handled by goalkeeper Joe Willis, the Timbers didn't generate any great looks after halftime.
"We were fortunate that we could score really quick on (the free kick)," Cabrera said. "Then in the second half it was a matter of being disciplined and organized and never lost the control of our plan."
From Portland's perspective, the story was an unreal spate of injuries. While Darlington Nagbe played and David Guzman returned to the lineup on Sunday, the Timbers were without midfielder Diego Chara, center backs Larrys Mabiala and Roy Miller and striker Fanendo Adi who has not played since August. Winger Sebastian Blanco, who missed the first leg with foot burns, came on late to help the Timbers push. But the attack suffered another loss when Darren Mattocks was forced out of the game 10 minutes in with a head injury.
"It wasn't injuries that lost the game tonight. We lost the game," Ridgewell said.
Houston will open the two-leg Western Conference final series against the Seattle Sounders with a home match on Nov. 21. The return leg will be Nov. 30 at Seattle.
The first-half goals came after several close calls. Asprilla nearly put Portland on the board in the 23rd minute, but Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis made a lunging right-handed stop of Asprilla's header from a corner kick.
At the other end, Attinella made a save on a Erick "Cubo" Torres shot in the 17th minute, and Alberth Elis sent an open header just wide in the 29th minute.
NOTES: Timbers veteran Miller ruptured an Achilles tendon on Saturday in training. Miller has been a valuable asset throughout the season and was slated to start at center back for the injured Mabiala on Sunday. Instead, Lawrence Olum played alongside Ridgewell. ... Nagbe, who left the first leg versus Houston with a tight hamstring, and Guzman (knee strain) returned to Portland's starting lineup. ... Blanco, who missed the first leg after burning his foot in a kitchen accident, came on in the 55th minute for holding midfielder Amobi Okugo. ... Joe Willis, who made eight starts in the regular season, was in goal for Houston because Tyler Deric was suspended pending an investigation of his arrest on domestic-violence charges. Willis made three saves. ... The Timbers had been unbeaten in seven consecutive MLS Cup playoff matches, the third longest such streak in league history. … Portland won its last six regular-season matches at home. … Houston won away from home for only the second time in 2017.