The Portland Timbers brushed past Austin FC 3-0 in the final regular-season game Saturday evening at Providence Park. Saturday was perhaps the least stressful MLS decision day in Timber history but the importance was placed on games elsewhere out west to see who would finish fifth to face the Timbers in the first round of the MLS Playoffs. Ultimately, Minnesota won the mid-table battle after drawing 3-3 with the Galaxy to finish fifth.
The fourth-placed Timbers finish the regular season with a franchise-best 17-wins in the MLS and finish on 55-points.
From a human aspect, Portland was hungry for revenge after losing both meetings at Austin FC by a combined score of 7-2 this season. Although Portland was locked into the number-four spot in the MLS Western Conference regardless of the result, more than just revenge was completed; acquiring all-three points secured a home game against every Eastern Conference side excluding New England if Portland makes it to MLS Cup.
Head Coach Giovanni Savarese and Timber player alike mentioned the importance of the match and Savarese’s starting 11 showed the intent, including star-man Sebastian Blanco who was involved in all three goals scored in the previous match against Real Salt Lake.
In the opening 5-10 minutes, Austin looked confident in rainy Portland but soon the men in green grew into the affair and chances came flowing for the home side. Blanco, seemingly as always, created the opening goal for Portland assisting a close-range effort for Cristhian Paredes to tuck away in the 16th minute.
Jaroslaw Niezgoda then doubled the Timber lead in the 44th minute off a near-post cross from Yimmi Chara.
After Niezgoda netted just before halftime the final result felt inevitable. Portland was utterly dominant in the opening 45 minutes at home and played the final home game of the regular season like they needed the points at Providence Park. The Timbers outshot Austin 12-1 and expected goals signaled Portland earned 1.91 to Austins’ 0.07.
Austin showed more attacking prowess in the second half but it opened up greater chances for Timber counter attacks. the Timbers quickly made it 3-0 on a counter when Niezgoda attempted to chip GK Brad Stuver and Blanco caught up to the end of the misfired looping ball to pierce the net.
The final 30 minutes after the Timbers made it three were professionally done by Portland, only allowing three second-half shots on target and giving Austin little opportunity or hope.
Austin FC finishes their first season in MLS 12th in the Western Conference with 31 points, fourth-worst in the MLS. The Timbers will now have a 13-14 day break due to an international break and not knowing the exact date of their playoff matchup at Providence Park with Minnesota but are certainly playing their best soccer of the season at the right time.
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