Timbers get leg up on FC Dallas
PORTLAND — Liam Ridgewell, Dairon Asprilla and Nat Borchers scored and the Portland Timbers beat FC Dallas 3-1 on Sunday night in the first leg of Major League Soccer's Western Conference finals.
With a 2-0 deficit, David Texeira scored in the 61st minute to narrow it for Dallas, the West's top seed in the playoffs. But Borchers added a goal for Portland at the 90-minute mark.
The surging Timbers have the upper hand going into the second leg set for Toyota Stadium in Texas next Sunday. The winner on aggregate will advance to the MLS Cup final Dec. 6.
In the Eastern Conference finals earlier Sunday, Columbus beat the visiting New York Red Bulls 2-0.
Portland is unbeaten at 5-0-2 in its last seven matches, including a 2-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps to win the conference semifinal. Dallas advanced following a 4-2 penalty shootout in the second leg of its semifinal against the Seattle Sounders.
The Timbers were without key contributors Diego Valeri and Rodney Wallace because of yellow card accumulation, but they'll be available for the second leg.
Darlington Nagbe, who is back in Portland after his first career call-up to the U.S. national team, stepped into the No. 10 spot for Valeri, who led the team with eight assists in the regular season.
Dallas ended the regular season with a five-game unbeaten streak. Fabian Castillo led the team in the regular season with nine goals and nine assists.
But Dallas was dealt a blow this week with the death of coach Oscar Pareja's mother in Colombia on Thursday. Pareja traveled to his native country to be with his family, but was in Portland for Sunday's match. The team wore black armbands in her honor.
The Timbers peppered Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, who saved a shot by Portland's Lucas Melano before the first minute had elapsed.
Ridgewell, a defender, barreled in on a diving Gonzalez for his goal in the 23rd minute. It was his first goal of the year.
Asprilla's long shot came from outside the penalty area, and sailed beyond Gonzalez's reach into the side of the net. It was Portland's 40th postseason goal across all eras.
Dallas narrowed it when Texeira chipped in a shot that got past Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey. The goal came moments after Ridgewell limped off the field with what appeared to be a leg or groin injury and was replaced by Norberto Paparatto.
Borchers' goal came when a number of Timbers scrambled to push in Paparatto's header as four minutes of extra time were added.
It is the second straight year that FC Dallas has been to the playoffs. The team went to the MLS Cup final in 2010, but lost 2-1 to the Colorado Rapids.
The Timbers have advanced to the playoffs twice since making the jump to Major League Soccer in 2011 that they've made it to the conference championship. The team fell to Real Salt Lake 5-2 on aggregate in 2013.
Both teams were well rested after a two-week break for international play.