With a once-comfortable grip on a playoff berth that has slipped in the past two weeks due to a three-game losing streak, the Portland Timbers were looking for a spark to put them back on a winning track before the final week. of the regular season.
On Wednesday they found him with a rare goal from the oldest wood and a jaw-dropping strike from a player looking to cap a career year in style.
Diego Chara scored his second goal of the season in the 34th minute to put the Timbers on the board, then Dairon Asprilla added a second-half goal that will be displayed on the highlights rolls for years as Portland beat San. Jose 2-0 at Providence Park. The victory put the Timbers back to fourth in the Western Conference with two games remaining in the regular season, and puts them in position to host a playoff game.
“I think it was a very good performance from a team who wanted to get a win, who understood that this game was very important for us,” said Timbers coach Giovanni Saverese. “I saw an energetic group all around from start to finish who executed the plan very well.”
Chara, who usually plays a defensive midfielder role, scored when he made a run to an unknown spot right in front of the net.
Santiago Moreno played a wide pass to Felipe Mora, who crossed the ball past Chara to redirect it towards the goal. The ball deflected slightly from San Jose’s Tommy Thompson and beat Earthquakes goalie James Marcinkowski for Chara’s 11th goal in 308 career MLS appearances.
The rarity of Chara’s goal, however, will be overshadowed by Asprilla’s last moment of inspiration. The music video was in heavy rotation on “SportsCenter” Wednesday night and will surely go down as one of the great goals in Timbers history, if not MLS history. In the 55th minute, Marcinkowski came out of his line well to handle a harmless ball near the edge of the penalty area but knocked it over in front of Asprilla, who juggled the ball in the air and then executed a perfect kick. aerial bicycle foot, firing a shot. on Marcinkowski’s outstretched arms and in the net.
“He tried (the bicycle kick) a few times in training and finally got it,” said Savarese.
It was Asprilla’s 10th goal of the season, and perhaps the biggest game of what has already been a career-best year for the Colombian midfielder, who mentioned his father’s death in the year. last as an inspiration for his performance.
“I thought about my dad a lot when I scored that goal,” said Asprilla, who added he scored the same as he played with the Timbers’ minor league affiliate, the T2 a few years ago.
Asprilla wore a t-shirt with her father’s image under her uniform during the match to remind her of the man he called her “superhero”.
“He’s always been an example to me from the start,” Asprilla said. “It says (on my shirt)” only you know how amazing it was to be your son. “”
Asprilla joined the Timbers in 2015 and has shown flashes of brilliance at times, even earning the nickname “Mr. October ”for his tendency to score big goals late in the season and in the playoffs. But he hadn’t secured a regular role in the starting lineup until this year and has more than doubled his career goal tally in 2021.
“He’s matured, he’s giving us what we need and he’s been very consistent,” said Savarese, who started Asprilla mostly in place of club legend Diego Valeri. “But above all, he was prolific in scoring goals. This goal today could be the goal of the year.
Coupled with the LA Galaxy’s loss to Sporting Kansas City, Portland (15-13-4, 49 points) regained fourth place in the Western Conference with two games remaining. It would give the Timbers a home game in the first round of the playoffs, but their position is still precarious. Only four points separate the Timbers from eighth-place Minnesota.
The top seven teams in the conference make the playoffs in single elimination, so without a positive result on November 3 at Real Salt Lake and at home on November 7 against Austin, the Timbers could potentially fall completely out of the playoff table.
This is what made Wednesday’s result so important. After losing a 2-0 second-half lead to Vancouver at home a week ago, the Timbers made sure they didn’t let another slip away, especially against the 10th place in the West.
San Jose (9-13-10, 37 points) was hanging on to faltering playoff hopes heading into Wednesday’s game, but the loss ended the earthquake chances.
Former Timber Jeremy Ebobisse started for San Jose in his first appearance at Providence Park. The exchange that sent the popular forward to earthquakes in August drew the wrath of some Timbers fans, and it received a warm ovation from the crowd as the rosters were introduced. Ebobisse nearly scored in the 54th minute, landing a 20-yard shot just off the right post.
– Scott Sepich for The Oregonian / OregonLive