LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark made up for his mistake late in the second half with a key save in the penalty shootout, and the Timbers advanced past FC Cincinnati into the quarterfinals of the MLS is Back tournament on Tuesday night.
Portland beat Cincinnati 4-2 in the shootout after the sides played to a 1-1 draw in regulation.
Clark’s blunder led to a penalty and Cincinnati’s tying goal in the 81st minute from Jürgen Locadia. But in the penalty shootout, Clark smothered Locadia’s attempt in the third round to give the Timbers the advantage.
Cincinnati’s Kendall Waston hit his shot over the crossbar in the fourth round and Jaroslaw Niezgoda scored to close out the victory.
“If you knew Steve Clark, you would know he doesn’t need support. I love his personality,” Portland's Sebastian Blanco said through an interpreter. “Steve knew about his mistake and he knew that he would save us.”
Diego Valeri, Felipe Mora and Blanco also scored in the shootout for Portland. The Timbers became the fifth Western Conference team to reach the final eight of the tournament and will face New York City FC in the quarterfinals on Saturday night.
“It wasn’t easy. The last few minutes were tough," Portland coach Giovanni Savarese said. “But we were able to go through and against a difficult team in a match that we knew was going to be very tough."
Niezgoda gave Portland a 1-0 lead in the 67th minute. Blanco found Niezgoda open in the middle of the penalty area. Niezgoda controlled the pass with his right foot and poked the shot with his left past Cincinnati goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton. It was the first goal allowed by Cincinnati since the opening match of the tournament.
Portland’s goal came only a few minutes after Cincinnati appeared to take the lead. Mathieu Deplagne’s goal off a free kick was disallowed after a video review determined Deplagne was offside.
But Clark’s mistake gave Cincinnati a chance. Rather than picking up a loose Cincinnati pass, Clark attempted to play it with his feet. The ball bounced too far away and he clipped Allan Cruz while diving for the ball. Locadia converted the penalty to pull Cincinnati even.
Clark nearly gifted another goal five minutes later when he mishandled Siem De Jong’s shot from distance. But Locadia made an equally awful mistake in the 88th minute when he missed a wide-open attempt from inside the 6-yard box, sending his shot over the crossbar.
Cincinnati coach Jaap Stam thought his club was the dominant side in the latter stages of the match.
“I think we were the better team. We created. We dominated. And then we got the equalizer eventually by getting the penalty,” Stam said. “And then after that we had a very big opportunity with Locadia to make the second one. Unfortunately, the ball didn’t go in and then you go to the penalties. Penalties, it’s always a gamble.”
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