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The Portland Timbers were eliminated from the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League after tying 1-1 to Costa Rican side Saprissa in a rainy and fiercely-combated match at Providence Park on Wednesday night.
Saprissa secured a lead in the 24th minute when Rolando Blackburn headed in a pinpoint cross from Hansell Arauz. Needing a win to advance, the deficit forced the Timbers to attack with extreme intent. And attack they did, just barely missing numerous chances in the first half that would have brought the terms level heading into the break.
Portland did not relent in their siege of Saprissa’s goal when the second half ensued, eventually equalizing in the 57th minute by way of a header of their own, finished off by striker Jack McInerney and served by Jack Barmby.
However, McInerney’s effort would be the only tally Portland could muster in the slippery conditions and thus the Timbers were eliminated after a thrilling CONCACAF battle with a quality opponent.
3 GAMES IN 7 DAYS: Portland head coach Caleb Porter faced a difficult challenge in preparing for a match in which only a full three points would see them through to the next round of the competition.
Coming off a critical MLS win against the Colorado Rapids Sunday, Wednesday’s elimination game fell just four days before their last 2016 MLS Regular Season game, another high-stakes contest for the Cascadia club if they are to have any hopes of a Western Conference playoff bid.
Porter played many of his stars on Wednesday, truly throwing the kitchen sink at Saprissa. With one game to go against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday, it will be a difficult challenge for the players to find a result after an emotionally charged four days. Can they re-kindle their 2015 magic that saw the Rose City hoist its first ever MLS Cup trophy?
LUCKY? NOT SO MUCH FOR TIMBERS: After witnessing the Timbers hit multiple shots past each post throughout the 90 minutes it seemed almost inevitable that the home side would find a way to get the victory. Despite a slick field and a fierce Saprissa defense, Portland was dangerous and dynamic in attack all game long; unleashing 14 total shots but missing the target on half those attempts. On a different night, perhaps, more than one of those efforts would have found the back of the night.
Wednesday was not that night, though, and near-misses do not equate to CCL advancements.
NOT ENOUGH HOME COOKING: It is no secret that the Timbers have been relying on home results to keep themselves afloat in 2016. Indeed, their MLS road form has yet to yield a winning effort to date.
Matches have been quite the opposite at Providence Park, though, where they have picked up all 12 of their MLS Regular Season victories and one CCL victory, as well.
So needing a win in the Rose City to advance in the CCL was by no means a stretch for a club that possesses such a sparkling home record. The effort was not enough, though, as Portland could not find two goals after conceding early. They will not be able to rely on their home turf on Decision Day but will not travel far either, staying in the Pacific Northwest for a massive showdown with their Cascadia rivals in Vancouver.
POR: Sunday, October 23 at Vancouver Whitecaps (4:00pm ET | MLS LIVE)