Defender Nat Borchers stepped up for the Portland Timbers with an MLS Cup spot on the line.
The Timbers had seen a three-goal lead in their Western Conference finals dwindle to a lone goal, and FC Dallas’ Blas Perez had a shot to tie the series in stoppage time — until Borchers got in the way.
“It was just a reaction for sure,” Borchers said. “I just had to make a quick decision, and somehow I made the block.”
Portland’s Lucas Melano then scored for a 2-2 tie in the match Sunday and a 5-3 series victory on aggregate goals.
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The Timbers advanced to the MLS Cup for the first time, next Sunday on the road at Columbus.
Portland won its final three road games during the regular season, and has a win and a tie in two road playoff games.
On Sunday, Fanendo Adi’s left-footed goal from 10 yards in front of the net gave the Timbers a 1-0 lead in the 54th minute. Captain Diego Valeri and Dairon Asprilla assisted.
“I knew that we would find spots between the defensive box and the outer box,” Valeri said. “I got the ball there and I knew that Adi was there in that spot, and he did a great thing.”
Dallas answered with goals by Ryan Hollingshead and Perez 5 minutes apart, and had 17 minutes to win the series or tie the Timbers and go to overtime.
“In the second half, I thought it was ours,” FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja said. “We created a lot of chances. Unfortunately, we couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net in those last 10 minutes.”
The five-year-old Portland franchise is in the playoffs for just the second season. The Timbers won the first leg against Dallas 3-1 to take a two-goal cushion into Sunday’s match.