Diego Valeri Helps Lead the Portland Timbers Into the MLS is Back Tournament Semifinals

Diego Valeri is celebrating a major win…

The 34-year-old Argentine footballer and Andy Polo each scored after entering the match as substitutes, helping lead the Portland Timbers to a 3-1 win over New York City FC in the last MLS is Back tournament quarterfinal near Orlando on Saturday night.

Diego Valeri

Sebastian Blanco also scored and had an assist for the Timbers, who haven’t conceded a non-penalty-kick goal in either of their games in the knockout phase.

Portland will face the Philadelphia Union in a semifinal on Wednesday night, after Philadelphia defeated Sporting Kansas City 3-1 on Thursday. The winner will advance to the August 11 final against either Orlando or Minnesota.

Jesus Medina scored a first-half penalty kick to give NYCFC an early lead. New York exits the tournament having lost three of its five matches, after forcing Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark into just two saves.

Valeri entered at halftime and broke a 1-all tie 20 minutes later. He controlled a diagonal pass into the penalty area, played a quick square ball to Jaroslaw Niezgoda, ran onto Niezgoda’s return pass and struck a first-time shot past Sean Johnson.

Polo required only a minute after his 75th-minute entrance to put the game out of reach. With several options to play a pass during an attack, Polo instead opted for a ferocious 25-yard curling shot from the left side that skimmed off a diving Johnson’s fingertips on its way inside the far post.

Before halftime, New York led for 16 minutes until Blanco struck an opportunistic equalizer, when Maxime Chanot deflected Jose Villafana‘s low cross from the left. Blanco collected the half-clearance about 15 yards from goal, then curled a right-footed shot beyond Johnson’s dive and inside the right post.

Medina opened the scoring in the 27th minute after drawing the penalty kick himself, when he went to the ground after tangling with Portland defender Larrys Mabiala.

Robert Sibiga ruled a foul and awarded the kick, and Medina stepped up and drove a left-footed shot to the left of Clark, who had guessed to his right.

Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez Scores for Record-Setting 11th Straight Match

Josef Martinez has kicked his way into the MLSrecord books…

The 26-year-old Venezuelan professional footballer, a striker for Atlanta United FC, scored for the 11th straight match, a Major League Soccer record, and his team cruised to a 2-0 win over the Portland Timbers on Sunday night at Portland’s Providence Park.

Josef Martinez

The win was Atlanta’s seventh in the past eight games across all competitions, and it vaulted them into first place in the MLS Eastern Conference. With goal differential as the tiebreaker, Atlanta United (14-9-3) took over first place from the Philadelphia Union, though both teams are on 45 points.

The Timbers (11-10-4) missed a chance to move up to fourth place in the Western Conference. The loss kept them in seventh place with the third tiebreaker advantage over FC Dallas, which is total goals scored.

Portland lost for just the second time in 10 league matches in a rematch of the two teams that played for the MLS Cuplast December, won by Atlanta. The Timbers have played three games of a 10-game homestead.

Leandro Gonzalez Pirez scored off a rebound of a blocked shot from Martinez in the 14th minute, and Atlanta took a 1-0 lead into halftime despite numerous chances for the Timbers.

The Timbers couldn’t convert an on-target header from Jeremy Ebobisse, saved by Brad Guzan in the 42nd minute, and had an apparent goal nullified by an offside call.

Atlanta United was close to a 2-0 lead in extra time of the first half, but Steve Clark stopped Ezequiel Barco‘s breakaway shot. They took the 2-0 lead 45 seconds into the second half when Martinez chipped an open shot past Clark after a pinpoint assist from Julian Gressel.

Martinez raised his season goal total to 21.

Portland defenderJulio Cascante had a header miraculously saved by Guzan, who had five saves, in the 64th minute.