MLS playoffs: Atlanta United, Portland Timbers advance to MLS Cup

Portland Timbers to face Atlanta United in MLS Cup final

The wait will have to continue for the New York Red Bulls. Diego Valeri scored a pair of goals, one of them in stoppage time, and Sebastian Blanco had the other as the Timbers squeaked out a 3-2 victory to advance to the MLS Cup for the second time in four years. "I think that's one thing this team has learned to do better this year, just grind games out".

Timbers manager Giovanni Savarese wouldn't divulge what was said in the Portland locker room at halftime Thursday night, saying only that "a few words" might have come across rather sharply. "If you're not having a day offensively for one reason or another you have to be able to take pride in defending and winning battles and this year we've been able to do that". So we were going to have to opt for a style of play that we had played during the season, which was the line of five, and it was the system that has given us the most security defensively.

One of the league's original teams, NY had the best regular-season record for the third time in six years and set a league record for points but remained without an MLS title in its 23 seasons.

With the temperature around 40 and an announced crowd of 22,137 on the late autumn night, Atlanta played with five men back and often 10 behind the ball in a classic "park the bus" defensive strategy.

The Red Bulls dug a deep hole for themselves in the first leg - 3-0 loss in Atlanta - and never looked like getting out of it at home. The hosts were all too aware that a single strike by the visitors against the run of play would be enough to eliminate them via the away-goals tiebreaker, and they defended like it to start the second half.

Jeff Larentowicz played a towering pass into the penalty area towards the Golden Boot victor and MVP finalist, who set an MLS scoring record with 31 goals during the regular season. New York's job in the second leg was made much tougher when Hector Villalba found the net in stoppage time only moments before the final whistle.

"First time that we've ever experienced that here and I hope it's the last time", he said.

NY appeared to go ahead for a moment in the 80th minute. Following a corner kick and poor initial punchout, Guzan had the ball in both hands above his head when Aaron Long crashed into him and sent the ball in.

After the season, the coach is expected to move on to manage Mexico's national.

NY Red Bulls - Robles; Murillo (Ivan 73), Parker, Long, Lade (Etienne 54); Davis (Rzatkowski 55), Adams; Royer, Kaku, Muyl; Wright-Phillips. The 19-year-old midfielder probably will transfer to sister club RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga.

"We'll find out in the next couple of days, hopefully, " he said.

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