BY TYLER NGUYEN
After defying the odds all season, the Portland Timbers found the final hurdle just a little too high.
In front of a record MLS Cup Final attendance of 73,019 supporters at the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., the fifth-seeded Timbers fell 2-0 to an Atlanta United side considered among the most talented squads in years.
Under first-year head coach Giovanni Savarese, the Timbers made it much further than anyone expected, digging out gutty road playoff wins against the Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City on the way to only their second MLS Cup Final appearance. Atlanta United, coached by former Barcelona and future Mexico manager Tata Martino, rolled over their opposition on the way to hosting the final in only their second season in the league.
The Timbers looked on top near the end of the first half but conceded the match’s first goal in the 39th minute after Jeremy Ebobisse, attempting to hold the ball up on a counter, took a heavy touch backward and allowed Michael Parkhurst to make a tackle that sent the ball all the way up to Josef Martinez on the front line. With the Timbers out of shape, Liam Ridgewell was forced to stretch for an interception and missed, and from there all Martinez had to do from there was round goalie Jeff Attinella to slot the ball home.
Just as it seemed the Timbers might break into the game again after coming out strong at the start of the second half, Atlanta doubled their lead in the 53rd minute off a set piece. Josef Martinez got at flicked header on Miguel Almiron’s set piece delivery, drawing the Timbers toward him, leaving Franco Escobar unmarked at the back post for an easy tap in.
Sebastian Blanco nearly got one back for the Timbers in the 62nd minute with a rasping shot through traffic that Guzan was able to keep out. Alvas Powell was sent through in the 83rd minute by Sebastian Blanco but scuffed the ball away only a few feet in front of goal in what would be the Timbers best shot to score in the game.