Timbers advance to West finals
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Fanendo Adi scored off a feed from Diego Valeri in the 31st minute and Diego Chara added the capper in second-half stoppage time, sending the Portland Timbers to the MLS Western Conference finals for the second time in franchise history with a 2-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday night.
Portland, the No. 3 seed in the West, played to a 0-0 draw in the first-leg of the two-game series at home against Vancouver and got the critical road goal after withstanding an early rush from the Whitecaps. Valeri got free from his defender on the end line and found Adi open in the middle of the penalty area. Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted had no chance to save the left-footed shot that silenced the 27,837 at BC Place to see the Whitecaps first home playoff match as an MLS club.
Portland will face FC Dallas in the Western Conference finals, with the first leg Nov. 22 in Portland.
Portland was knocked out by Real Salt Lake in the West finals in 2013.
Chara's goal came on a counter-attack as Vancouver threw all its resources forward in the closing minutes. Adi picked up the assist, leaving the pass for Chara on the breakaway.
Portland beat Vancouver for the first time since Sept. 20, 2014. The Whitecaps had one win and the Cascadia rivals played to three draws in their four previous matchups this season. Portland was tied for the most victories away from home during the regular season and for long stretches of the match controlled possession, leaving Vancouver to play chase just to get an occasional touch on the ball.
Adi led Portland with 16 goals during the regular season but only three of those came off assists from Valeri, who led the Timbers with 12 assists. Their fourth connection this season came after Vancouver came out buzzing for the first 20 minutes only to see its chance take a major blow when midfielder Kekuta Manneh had to leave with an ankle injury midway through the second half.
Vancouver had the better of the chances early, included two dangerous shots form Manneh within the first 10 minutes. Manneh's left-footed shot from a sharp angle in the sixth minute skirted wide of the far post and his attempt from distance in the ninth minute hit the post and ricocheted off the back of Portland goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey but bounced wide of the goal.
But Vancouver's entire offensive attack changed when Manneh hurt his ankle in the 20th minute. Manneh tried to return but lasted less than a minute before being subbed out for Mauro Rosales and Vancouver had only one good scoring chance the rest of the half.
Manneh came back to the bench for the second half with his left ankle heavily wrapped with ice and helped by two teammates.