PORTLAND, Oregon – The evening was going to be a special one for his family regardless of the night’s result. That the Portland Timbers snapped their four-game losing streak on the same day Sebastián Blanco and his wife celebrated their daughter’s first birthday made Wednesday night’s 2-0 win over Toronto FC all the more memorable.
“It’s a special day …,” Blanco confessed, afterward, having walked onto the field for the national anthems with one-year-old Felicitas in his arms. “It was an amazing moment in my life. It was good, because after that, we were able to deliver a win. So, it was a complete day.”
The focal point of the Timbers’ attacking throughout most of the night, Blanco also played an integral part in the night’s winning goal. Making a run past Toronto’s Michael Bradley – who, in central defense, had been the match’s decisive player until Diego Chara’s 64th-minute goal – Blanco pounced on Zarek Valentin’s pass toward TFC’s penalty area. Moments later, a ball fired to the far post set up Portland's relief-inducing goal.
“I was happy because (Diego) Chara scored his first goal and celebrated for his wife,” Blanco said, alluding to the long-time Timber’s celebration, which saw the Colombian midfielder put the ball under his shirt, against his stomach, in honor of his pregnant wife.
“I’m happy (about the goal) because I had too many mistakes, before, and was able to give that assist for the first goal,” Blanco said, “and afterward, we could be calm and be better. But it was important, because we had four straight losses, and we didn’t deserve [to be in this situation]. Now, it’s important to continue to work hard.”
In the 83rd minute, David Guzmán would add insurance on a night notable as much for the result as what happened around it. In addition to Blanco's and Chara’s family news, Jorge Villafaña made his first appearance since returning to the club, starting at left back and playing 80 minutes. Two minutes after Villafaña’s exit, Lucas Melano made his Portland return, replacing Samuel Armenteros and making a standout defensive play, tracking back from high at one point to disrupt a spell of Toronto possession.
“I’m very happy for Lucas (Melano), to be able to play (here) again; for Jorge (Villafaña),” Blanco said. “They helped their teammates a lot. We have good team, and we’re continuing to work to reach the top of the table.”
After four straight losses, that place is still a ways away, but it’s three points closer than it was 24 hours ago. With the victory, Portland is back above the Western Conference’s playoff line, sitting in fifth place ahead of Saturday’s visit to New England (4:30pm PT, FOX 12 PLUS).
For one night, though, the Timbers’ place in the standings took a backseat; at least, it did for the Blancos. With Felicitas’ big day bracketing her father’s standout performance, family was a welcome context for sport.