Apparently making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history was not enough for the Portland Timbers.
The Timbers entered Saturday night’s regular season finale against Chivas USA needing a win to cement first place in the Western Conference, and did they ever make the most of its opportunity. The Timbers found the back net three times in the first half, added two more goals in the second half, and Portland ran away with the top seed in the West with a 5-0 win at the StubHub Center.
“It’s been a fun season, but I think we’re all going to continue to remain grounded, humble and hungry and keep this thing business as usual,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said. “We don’t want to celebrate or reflect too much because we’re focused on not just being in the playoffs, but we want to win it all.”
Portland took control of the game in the first half. The Timbers struck in the 16th minute as Johnson played a ball into the penalty area to Jose Adolfo Valencia. Valencia took a shot on goal, but was blocked. The ball did stay in the box and Valeri came in and blasted a ball past keeper Tim Melia into the back net.
The Timbers were just getting warmed up. Valeri made it a two-goal game in the 29th minute, as he took advantage of a misplayed ball by Left Back Jaime Frias and broke for goal. Valeri juked out a recovering Frias and chipped a ball perfectly over Melia into the far post to double Portland’s lead. Valeri took on the role of assist man in the 34th minute, as he chased down Futty Danso’s long ball down the right flank. Valeri fought off a challenge from Josue Soto, who had replaced Frias moments earlier, went into the box and played a bal to Rodney Wallace, who touched a ball past Melia into the back net.
“Our philosophy is to press and it’s not just a couple of guys, but ten guys,” Porter said. “I thought we were very aggressive and really set the tone with our suffocating relentless pressure.”
The Timbers didn’t let up in the second half, finding the back net once more in the 72nd minute. Wallace took a shot on goal that was saved by Melia, but Ryan Johnson, who had came in as a substitute back in the 62nd minute, was in the right spot at the right time, as he slotted a ball past Melia into the back net. Then in the 75th minute, Portland won a free kick just outside the penalty area when Carlos Borja fouled Will Johnson and a minute later, Johnson sent a powerful free kick through the wall and though Melia got a touch on the set piece, it still wasn’t enough to stop the ball from going in far post.
“It gave me a bit of confidence,” Johnson said. “I’ve been hitting them in training, and now it just gives me a boost to take that confidence into the playoffs and see if I can get one in the playoffs.”
Chivas did present a few scoring opportunities in the match. The Goats thought it should have been awarded a penalty when Striker Erick “Cubo” Torres was brought down from behind by Midfielder Diego Chara, but no call was made. Matthew Fondy did get a shot on goal during the sequence, but it was blocked out of bounds. Torres did get one chance in the 80th minute, as Fondy crossed a ball towards the far post and Torres headed a ball on target, but Ricketts recovered to parry the ball away.
“What you saw today was a team that was very regular,” Chivas USA head coach Jose Luis Real said. “This last game left a bad impression on the fans and on the players and on everyone that was here today.”