In Pictures: Timbers, SKC play out goalless draw in first leg of Western Conference Championship

Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City are as they were coming into Sunday’s Western Conference Championship series. They battled to a 0-0 draw in the first-leg at Providence Park, meaning there’s all to play for in what should be a thrilling second-leg on Thursday.

Portland had the best chances on the night, hitting the post and seeing a goal ruled out for offside following a VAR decision. They were also denied by Tim Melia time and time again, with the SKC goalkeeper making six saves on the night.

Sporting KC had a couple of chances of their own, mostly breaking on the counter wherever possible. Johnny Russell had a good sight of goal just after half-time. While Daniel Salloi had a great chance to win it in stoppage time, only for Liam Ridgewell to put his body on the line to block.

Check out exclusive photos from Sunday’s first leg below, courtesy of MLSGB photographer, Denise McCooey.

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In Pictures: Timbers inflict MLS Playoff penalty pain to eliminate Sounders

The Portland Timbers are heading to the Western Conference Final. They edged past the Seattle Sounders over two legs , managing to survive a spirited Seattle comeback, getting the better of the Sounders in the MLS Cup Playoffs for just the second time in history.

The Sounders won 3-2 on the night at CenturyLink Field in the second leg but fell on penalties 4-2 in the shootout. Seattle’s season is over. Portland are moving on to face either Real Salt Lake or Sporting Kansas City.

Following Portland’s 2-1 comeback win in the first-leg of the series, the pressure was always going to be on the Sounders to get a result in front of their home fans. But the opening hour of the second leg was an ill-tempered battle.

Raul Ruidiaz sparked the game into life with the opening goal on 68 minutes, putting the Sounders ahead in the tie on away goals. But Sebastian Blanco put the Timbers back into the driving seat ten minutes later.

It was Ruidiaz who saved the Sounders from exiting after 90 minutes as he fired in a dramatic 93rd minute goal to make the game 2-1 on the night and 3-3 on aggregate. Extra-time then begun perfectly for Portland, as Dairon Asprilla scored just three minutes into ET.

But Seattle fought back yet again, with Nicolas Lodeiro firing in from the spot in the 7th minute of extra-time to once again level the tie on aggregate. No more goals would be scored, sending the game into penalties.

Seattle’s Will Bruin hit the post, while Osvaldo Alonso saw his shot saved by Portland goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. Stefan Frei saved Liam Ridgewell’s penalty, to briefly keep Sounders hopes alive, but Asprilla was the man who ended Seattle’s season. He tucked his penalty away, claiming a series win for Portland.

Check out exclusive photos from Thursday’s game below, courtesy of MLSGB photographers Denise McCooey and Paul Kahl.

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In Pictures: Portland Timbers come back to take first-leg advantage from Seattle Sounders

Portland Timbers came back to beat Cascadia Rivals Seattle Sounders 2-1 in the first leg of their Western Conference Semifinal playoff clash at Providence Park. It means the first playoff series between the two rivals in five years is finely poised ahead of the second-leg meeting at CenturyLink Field.

The Sounders took an early lead as Raul Ruidiaz converted Cristian Roldan’s cut back inside the first 10 minutes, netting what could still prove to be a crucial away goal. But Portland battled back.

The hosts leveled the tie as Jeremy Ebobisse ran on to Diego Valeri’s perfect pass on 17 minutes and they took the lead just 12 minutes later. Sebastian Blanco turned what looked like a half-chance into a fine goal, sending Portland fans crazy.

Neither team was able to breakthrough again, despite the frantic start to the game and the two rivals now head into the second leg with the score at 2-1. You can guarantee there will be drama in Seattle on Thursday night.

Check out exclusive photos from Sunday’s game below, courtesy of MLSGB photographer Denise McCooey.

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In Pictures: NYCFC stroll past Philadelphia Union in Eastern Conference Knockout Round

Maxi Moralez scored and picked up two assists as New York City FC strolled past Philadelphia Union 3-1 in Wednesday’s Eastern Conference Knockout Round. The result sees NYCFC through to the Conference Semifinals for the third-straight year. But it means Philadelphia are left searching for their first ever playoff win. A search they’ll have to wait another year to continue.

The game saw a repeat scoreline from Sunday’s Regular Season clash, which was also at Yankee Stadium. Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and David Villa added NYCFC’s other goals on the night. While Corey Burke scored a late goal for the Union, which was little more than a consolation after a tough night for the East’s sixth-seed.

NYCFC will now face Atlanta United over two legs in the Eastern Conference Semifinal, with the first leg on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

Check out exclusive photos from Wednesday’s Playoff game, courtesy of MLSGB photographer Ashley Marshall.

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In Pictures: Seattle Sounders leave it late to lock in Knockout Round bye for 2018 MLS Playoffs

The Seattle Sounders kept momentum going as they left it late to beat San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 at CenturyLink Field on MLS Decision Day. A Raul Ruidiaz brace was enough to earn three more points, securing a Knockout Round bye in the Western Conference.

Seattle’s incredible end-of-season run has seen them lock in yet another playoff campaign. And they’ll head into their Western Conference semifinal in full confidence, given the way they stuck together to beat the Quakes on Sunday.

Chad Marshall’s own goal had dampened the mood around CenturyLink Field but Seattle stuck together and kept the pressure on San Jose’s goal. It paid off. Ruidiaz equalised in the 79th minute and then secured the win in dramatic style in the third minute of stoppage time.

Check out exclusive photos from Sunday’s game below, courtesy of MLSGB photographers Denise McCooey and Paul Kahl.

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Wayne Rooney and DC have playoffs in sight ahead of pivotal clash with Montreal

DC United’s upturn in form has been stunning since former England captain Wayne Rooney crossed the Atlantic to bolster their offensive ranks. The all-time leading England and Man Utd goal scorer joined a DC side sitting bottom of the Eastern Conference, with a miserable record when it came to goals, shots on target and chances created. But he has dragged them up to seventh in the standings and was instrumental once again as they drew 3-3 with conference leaders New York Red Bulls at the weekend. DC United now stand on the brink of a playoff spot and they will bid to further those claims when they take on Montreal Impact on Saturday.

Montreal are currently in sixth place, four points clear of DC United, but Rooney and co have a game in hand. Win at the weekend and they will close the gap to just one point, with a fair amount of games left in the season. The top six teams go through to the playoffs, and it would be exciting to see Rooney taking on the best in the league, so fans hope he can produce more magic.

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Check out a BetDSI review and check their odds and you will see that DC United are the favourites to pick up the win. With Rooney in the team, anything looks possible. He has five goals and seven assists in 12 starts, including the most incredible play of the season. DC United were drawing 3-3 with Orlando City and they won a corner deep into injury time, so the goalkeeper went up for it. But the ball was cleared and Orlando’s forward was in possession with an empty net gaping in front of him. However, Rooney burst back with phenomenal pace, delivered an inch perfect slide tackle, won the ball cleanly, carried it up the pitch and blazed a long ball directly onto Luciano Acosta’s head, allowing the diminutive forward to nod in the winner.

Rooney followed that up with a well-taken brace in a 4-1 victory over Portland in their following game, and he has scored in his last two matches. He is pulling the strings with aplomb, and Acosta’s performances have improved greatly since teaming up with the former Everton and Man Utd star. His arrival gave the entire team a lift, and they have not lost in four games now.

Yet Montreal Impact are also in great form, so it should prove to be a cracking game. Last time out, they travelled to fifth placed Philadelphia Union and earned a thrilling 4-1 victory courtesy of Alejandro Silva Gonzalez’s brace and further strikes from Saphir Taider and Quincy Amarikwa. That followed a 3-0 win over Red Bulls, in which former Arsenal and Man City right-back Bacary Sagna was on target. Evan Bush has arguably been the best goalkeeper in the league this season, and they too are surging with confidence.

The last meeting between these teams finished 1-1 in August, and DC United have not beaten Montreal since 2015. Yet after a testing few years there is finally optimism around this club, thanks to Rooney’s arrival and their subsequent upswing in form. If they want to finish in the top six and surge into the playoffs they need to win games like this in front of their home fans. They have the quality and the momentum to pull it off. But Montreal know that victory will leave them heavy favourites to seal the final playoff spot, so the stakes are extremely high. Both teams have been exceptional in front of goal lately, so we should be in for a high-scoring affair, full of chances and individual brilliance.

Brad Smith thriving with regular football in MLS

Very few mid-season signings are able to seamlessly slot into their new sides starting lineup but Brad Smith looks completely at home in a Seattle Sounders shirt despite only arriving at the beginning of August. The left-back who joined the club on loan from Premier League side Bournemouth has hit the ground running on the West Coast and has already made a big impression at CenturyLink Field.

Smith needed some convincing to leave the south coast of England and head coach Brian Schmetzer personally phoned the 24-year-old in order to help sell the opportunity. Following the chat, the Perth-born full-back didn’t take long to make his mind up and it would appear that he made the right decision.

His immigration paperwork came through swiftly and he made his debut earlier than expected. His first appearance helped the Sounders beat high-flying FC Dallas 2-1 as they made it eight games unbeaten. At the time of writing, Smith is yet to taste defeat for his new club and has played an integral part in each of those four successes. His superb crossing set up a goal for Raul Ruidiaz on September 1st as Schmetzer’s side came from a goal down to beat Sporting Kansas City 3-1 in a potentially decisive Western Conference clash.

Smith’s cross also led to a penalty for the home side and his attacking style of play has impressed the passionate Sounders fans. His pace is a huge attribute and although his defensive play is a potential area of improvement, his penchant for getting forward tends to disguise those shortcomings.

Most importantly, Smith looks happy to be at the club. He appears to have bonded with the current squad and seems to be taking it all in his stride. He admits that he almost rejected the opportunity due to becoming a father for the first time. But despite the significant upheaval, he’s delighted that he snapped up the chance to play in MLS.

His opportunities have been extremely limited at Bournemouth as he has rarely featured for Eddie Howe’s side since joining from Liverpool. Across four seasons in the Premier League, he has made just nine appearances and admits that he is now “focusing on football” but remains philosophical about the future. His parent club have made a decent start to the 2018-19 season despite many pundits tipping the Cherries to struggle this season. Next year Premier League predictions from Betting.Betfair have them at 7/1 after picking up seven points from a possible 12. Cardiff remain the 4/11 favourites to drop straight back down to the Championship.

Smith’s future remains uncertain but he appears to be relishing the chance to play regular football and he’s helped the Sounders continue their quest for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. He has taken a gamble in a bid to get his stalling career back on track and it appears to be paying off. The attack-minded left-back could have a big say in the MLS playoffs at the end of this season and that experience is likely to be invaluable for the Aussie. His move to the US appears to have benefited both parties and Bournemouth fans will be delighted to see their loanee excelling at CenturyLink Field.

In pictures: Sounders keep streak alive with 1-0 win at Portland

The Seattle Sounders are rolling. They set a club record by making it seven wins on the bounce on Sunday, beating Cascadia rivals Portland Timbers 1-0 at Providence Park.

The game’s only goal came via an own goal, with Portland’s Julio Cascante the unfortunate victim of the game-deciding moment. Seattle weren’t the better side for most of the game but they got the result they needed.

Seattle hadn’t won in the Rose City since August 2014 but they made the most of their opportunity on the night and moved in front of Portland in the Western Conference. The Sounders are now fifth, while the Timbers dropped out of the playoff spots and into seventh.

Check out exclusive photos from the match below, courtesy of MLSGB photographer Denise McCooey.

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In Pictures: Vancouver head to Portland and snap 15-game streak in Cascadia Cup clash

The Portland Timbers’ 15-game streak is over. Of all the teams to end their unbeaten run, they would not have wanted it to be Cascadia rivals; Vancouver Whitecaps. But that’s the way it ended as the Whitecaps ran out 2-1 in what was a dramatic night at Providence Park.

Portland were awarded two penalties on the night but couldn’t keep their unbeaten run going. The result means they have been handed their first home loss of 2018. For the Whitecaps, it keeps their playoff push alive following a draw at New York City FC before Saturday’s game. They are now two points outside of the playoffs in the West.

The Whitecaps took the lead in the 14th minute, with Kei Kamara heading in from Kendall Waston’s pass to silence the home crowd. But Waston was then at fault as he brought down Diego Valeri in the box in the 40th minute, with the Timbers being awarded a spot-kick.

But Valeri missed the penalty, dragging his shot wide. And just moments later, the visitors doubled their lead. Brek Shea crossed in and Cristian Techera headed in Vancouver’s second, just a couple of minutes before half-time. The missed penalty and second Vancouver goal sucked the life out of Portland before the break.

The Timbers did come out fighting though and Valeri made up for his first-half penalty miss when he slotted in from the spot on 71 minutes. Portland pressed, looking for the equaliser to extend their unbeaten run to 16 but couldn’t find the goal. Vancouver held on, for what could prove to be three vital points come the end of the season.

Check out exclusive photos from Saturday’s Cascadia Cup clash below, courtesy of MLSGB photographer, Denise McCooey.

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In pictures: Timbers make it 15 unbeaten with 3-0 win over Union

The Portland Timbers tied a club record by stretching their unbeaten run to 15 on Saturday night. Portland scored two penalties on the way to a 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Union at Providence Park.

The teams went into half-time with the score locked at 0-0 but Portland head coach Giovanni Savarese told his players to go after the Union after the break. And they did.

Penalties scored by Diego Valeri and Dairon Asprilla put Portland 2-0 up before David Guzman headed in the final goal in the 87th minute. Asprilla and Guzman scored their first goals of the season on the night.

The result moved Portland up into second place in the Western Conference and stretched their home unbeaten run to 10. For Philadelphia, they sit seventh in the East, two point behind New England and Montreal, who currently occupy the final two playoff spots with 12 games to go.

Portland’s impressive run stretches all the way back to mid-April, when they beat Minnesota 3-2 in their 2018 home opener. The Timbers failed to win any of their five opening games to the season – all of which were played on the road – so the fact they’re now sitting second is remarkable.

Check out exclusive photos from Saturday’s game at Providence Park below, courtesy of MLSGB photographer, Denise McCooey:

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