KANSAS CITY, Kan. – It was a moment that the Portland Timbers desperately needed.
Down 1-0 to Sporting Kansas City in the deciding leg of the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Championship at Children’s Mercy Park, Portland was trying to find a way back into the match after having been dominated for much of the first half.
In the 52nd minute, Timbers midfielder Sebastián Blanco, hugging the left sideline, received a pass from teammate Jorge Villafaña and sprang forward. The Argentine darted and feinted as he cut towards the middle, looked up at goal, and then fired a 30-yard blast that dipped and knuckled into the upper right corner of the Kansas City goal to tie the game at 1-1 and give Portland an all-important away goal advantage.
The strike was the team’s first shot on goal in the match.
The feat proved to be a turning point for the visitors, energizing them in the second half. The Timbers fought on to win 3-2 with Blanco’s teammate Diego Valeri scoring twice and the team marched on to the 2018 MLS Cup—their second trip in the last four seasons. They’ll next travel east to face Atlanta United FC on Dec. 8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (5pm PT, FOX).
But the goal, for all its artistry, surprised even Blanco.
“When I cut to inside the field, I looked at the space,” he said. “I tried to shoot because we couldn’t create too many chances so I tried.
“Really, to be honest, I didn’t want to put it in that place but I tried to score so I was very happy when I looked at the ball inside the goal. I couldn’t believe it because I thought it was out.”
As you watch the replay, you can see Valeri track the ball towards the goal and then hold his arms up in disbelief at Blanco’s special moment.
“[Blanco] was winning the spaces that I left when I was running to the sides really well in the first half,” said Valeri. “But in the second [half], on the goal, he did it really well. I asked him on the field and he just said, “I just kick.”
He added with a smile, “It was a great kick.”
Giovanni Savarese, having led the team to the league final in his first season as Timbers head coach, was dutifully impressed with Blanco's achievement and echoed Valeri’s sentiment.
“Incredible,” he said of the golazo. “I had a perfect view. Blanco has scored some amazing goals, but this one was incredible.”