Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese, celebrating with Sebastian Blanco, has led his team into another final. (Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)
ORLANDO, Fla. – The Portland Timbers secured their spot in the final of the MLS Is Back Tournament recording a 2-1 semifinal win over the Philadelphia Union at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on Wednesday night.
Jeremy Ebobisse scored his team-leading fourth goal of the tournament early in the first half, while Sebastián Blanco registered his third goal of the competition in the second half to help Portland secure its spot in the tournament final on Aug. 11.
“Great performance from the players,” Timbers head coach Giovammi Savarese said. “Extremely proud of the way the guys were able to execute the plan. A lot of discipline. A lot of work. A lot of honesty in the game from the guys to make sure that we got a very important result. We created chances, we had opportunities, but then at the end the game became very tough. The guys were able to prevail and now we’re in the final. Credit to all the guys that worked so hard today to get a very important win.”
The Union made it interesting over the final minutes as Andrew Wooten tallied in the 85th minute: Goalkeeper Steve Clark made a save on a free kick, parrying away the attempt from the left wing by Jamiro Monteiro, but Wooten pounced and finished from close range.
Portland advanced to its fourth tournament final, which includes MLS Cup in 2018 and 2015 and the 1975 Soccer Bowl (North American Soccer League).
“It’s the quality of the whole group, the coaching staff and the players, all the sacrifice, all the energy to make this club bigger, and knowing that all happens on the field and that’s it,” Savarese said. “So, besides all the stuff around our environment, we are very focused on our job, to prepare every game and execute during the game. So, it’s one more step, and we know that still we have one more game to get the trophy.”
With Savarese at the helm, Portland has advanced to a tournament final in two of its last three seasons. During Savarese’s managerial career with the Cosmos and Portland he has coached in 35 elimination matches, posting a record of 22-11-2.
Savarese guided the Cosmos to three NASL championships- 2013, 2015 and 2016.
“We don’t play for the commentators. We don’t play for the writers,” Savarese said. “We play for our fans, for ourselves, for the group, for our families. We have a tremendous belief in ourselves and we’re humble. We came here with a lot of humbleness to work, to make it difficult, to achieve something important and the guys have been able to do that. So all the hard work has been for our fans and everybody that believes in us, especially our families in Portland and the fans as well.”
Blanco scored for a second consecutive match, tallying the game-winner against Philadelphia. With the goal, Blanco has been directly involved in eight of the Timbers’ 12 goals at the tournament, recording three goals and five assists. Blanco has scored or assisted in all six MLS is Back Tournament matches. His six consecutive matches with a goal or assist is the longest streak of his Portland career.
He also is the only player with three or more goals and three or more assists in the competition.