The difference between MLS and most other major American sports leagues is that two teams with losing records can play a low scoring game in the rain and have it be one of the most exciting games of the year. Actually, it may have just been one of the most exciting 20 minutes of the season, as Portland kept their playoff hopes alive (and extinguishes DC United’s) with a 1-1 draw at RFK Stadium last night.
Portland took the lead in the 24th minute on a header by Kenny Cooper, who got free of Brandon McDonald in front of the net to redirect a cross from former DCU fullback Rodney Wallace. Portland dominated the early run of play and looked like the team fighting for a playoff spot, controlling the midfield and pressuring a DCU defense starting two rookies. DC head coach Ben Olsen went all-in with his lineup by starting Charlie Davies and Josh Wolff in front of Dwayne De Rosario, Andy Najar, and Santino Quaranta. Despite the offensive firepower, it was Portland who controlled the flow and limited DC’s chances in the first half.
A tired DC and comfortable Portland began the second half stuck in the midfield, but it was Dwayne De Rosario that snapped the home side out of its funk in the 73rd minute. His curling top shelf goal energized the crowd and led to a frenzied final twenty minutes. Before the final whistle blew, fans saw the following:
- Bill Hamid make two incredible saves on Timber break aways that easily should have put the game away for Portland.
- A shot by Brian Umony that got past Hamid but hit the top bar and bounced just in front of the DC goal line.
- A disallowed goal by DC sub Blake Brettschneider late in the match that looked to be the game winner, occurring after Troy Perkins had gone too far outside his goal but earning an offsides flag.
- Joseph Ngwenya continuing his miserable season by missing a six footer with a reaction save by Perkins, followed immediately by another reaction save off Brettschneider’s follow-up.
When the final whistle blew, the score remained deadlocked and Portland lived to fight another day. The Timbers, if New York loses tonight, need to win this weekend at RSL to secure a playoff spot. DC, however, was eliminated with the draw and will now sit home a club record fourth consecutive playoffs.
All eyes now turn to New York where the Red Bulls tonight have a chance to clinch the final playoff spot. Keep checking the site for more analysis and commentary on the race for the MLS playoffs.