After a largely up and down 2018 season for the Portland Timbers, they finally sealed a spot in the postseason in their second to last game of the season with a 3-0 win over Real Salt Lake.
Back in spring, the Timbers looked like they could be on their way to a Western Conference Title. After a disappointing start to the season that resulted in zero wins over their first five matches, Portland kicked it into high gear. For the next three months, the Timbers would go undefeated and work their way up as high as second in standings.
Things would begin to look worrisome again when they would lose four straight matches in August, falling out of the top six in the West on multiple occasions.
With only two months left in the season, it began to look as if the Timbers would miss the playoffs after earning the best regular season record last year.
Luckily, Portland has looked far more consistent in the final quarter of the season, only losing once in the last five games. It was their most recent match against Salt Lake that eased the nerves of their fans, officially sending them to the playoffs.
Portland played their first of two back to back matches against Real Salt Lake, defeating them easily in a 4-1 road win.
In a quick turnaround, Portland hosted Salt Lake for their second match, and looked ready to fly into the playoffs from the start.
Captain Diego Valeri nearly scored in the opening seconds, blasting a close range shot towards the upper right corner, with a quick reaction save keeping him off the scoreboard.
The first goal for Portland would come in the first fifteen minutes, with Larrys Mabiala meeting a cross with a volley from his foot, sliding it into the goal just by the right post.
The second goal was earned by Diego Chará in the 62 minute, when he came sprinting down the center of the field before finally meeting a low cross in the eighteen-yard-box, taking a few touches past the goalkeeper and sending the ball into an empty net.
To seal the deal, Sebastián Blanco slipped in a skilled goal in the 87 minute. Receiving the ball at the top of the eighteen-yard-box, he dribbled between two defenders before splitting the keeper and the last defender and passing the ball into the lower left corner.
Portland looked strong and determined in their playoff qualifying match. They will want to keep this mentality going into the postseason.
After a first round bye last year, Portland was eliminated by the Houston Dynamo in a surprising upset. This year, Portland will end up in the third, fourth or fifth position.
Being a lower seed could work out well for Portland. In their championship run in 2015, the Timbers came in third and surprised everyone as they went on to win it all.
Portland has all the pieces needed for a championship. They boast talent from the front to back of their lineup and have shown impressive, championship level play at various points throughout the regular season. Fans can only wait and see which Portland team will show up come November.