Consider the source of this pick for this Sunday’s PTFC: From The Archives, presented by KeyBank replay on FOX 12 Oregon KPTV (3pm PT, also on Timbers.com). Also consider the length of his career (13 seasons), as well as that career’s breadth: four countries and three continents, so far. You can also consider his actual words, with Portland Timbers attacker Sebastián Blanco calling November 8, 2018’s playoff game in Seattle, “the [craziest] game that I have played in my life.” And for many of us, it is also the craziest game we’ve ever watched.
The night’s match was the second leg of the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinal, one which, after 90 minutes, saw one rival with a slight edge over the other. Even that first leg was slightly up-and-down at the beginning. Seattle Sounders FC striker Raúl Ruidíaz gave his side a shock 10th-minute lead at Providence Park before Jeremy Ebobisse (17’) and Blanco (29’) responded before the half-hour mark. The 2-1 edge Portland took into game two gave both teams hope.
In the 68th minute at CenturyLink Field, that hope swung one way, with Ruidíaz’s goal putting Seattle within 22 minutes of another conference final. Blanco swung the advantage back Portland’s way 10 minutes later before Ruidíaz, three minutes into stoppage time, volleying home a failed clearance to give the match an extra half-hour. Within that extra time, Dairon Asprilla would strike first, with Nicolas Lodeiro’s converted penalty casting the match toward its inevitable shootout.
In real time, though, the shootout snuck up on us. We knew the possibility was approaching, but amid swing after swing of five goals in (counting stoppage time) around an hour’s time, it was hard to think outside the moment. Our heads spun too quickly to see what was on approach, with “surely, something else is going to happen” becoming the prevailing thought. The arrival of penalty kicks felt like the apt conclusion to 60 minutes’ chaos – chaos stopped only by the rigidity of a shootout.
“This is a special game,” Blanco says, understated, knowing he played a key part. His night was more chaotic than most. A turf-scorching goal to answer Ruidíaz’s opener. A clearance that led to the Peruvian’s second. A handball in extra time that set up Lodeiro before a penalty converted in the shootout. It was a night of ups and downs for Blanco – who also had a famous celebration at the end of extra time – but in both this match and the round that followed, his hero’s moments came to define his postseason.
Perhaps that’s why the Portland star chose this match. Even if he hadn’t, it would live on as one of the craziest games the Timbers have been a part of. For the second time in their MLS history, they had shown their rivals out of the postseason, though as opposed to the end-to-end control of 2013, 2018 saw them do so in one of the most suspenseful ways possible.