The soccer pitch is many yards wide and many yards long, but in the end it is a game of inches. Kacper Przybylko was called offside as he evened the scoreline late in the second half, and though replays raised questions about the call it was upheld by the Video Assistant Referee. Portland hung on for a 2-1 win after scoring on a set play on either side of halftime. Sergio Santos skied a first half penalty that would have drawn the Union even at 1-1 as the opening half wore down.
Jim Curtin stuck with the same lineup that knocked off Sporting KC against a Timbers side that called on Diego Valeri, Diego Chara, Sebastian Blanco, and Jeremy Ebobisse.
It was the latter, a rising American star like Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie, who opened the scoring when he cleanly won a header off a Valeri corner kick in the 13th minute.
Santos and Przybylko were active throughout the first half and combined for five shots as the Union pushed for an equalizer. In extra time of the half, Santos was fouled as he closed in on a Kai Wagner cross, but he sent his penalty kick soaring over Steve Clark's net.
As the second half began, Jamiro Monteiro and Brenden Aaronson switched positions to give Monteiro a chance to find the ball more against Portland's deep defensive block. Philly still had difficulty breaking down the Timbers and Gio Savarese's side looked to be safely into the final when Blanco finished off a loose ball in the box off another Valeri set piece.
But the Union refused to be deterred. Ilsinho and Bedoya began working up the right with support from Ray Gaddis, and as the 80th minute arrived holes began developing in the Timbers' armor. Przybylko had a shot saved by Clark's feet before substitute Andrew Wooten tucked in a rebound to open his Union account and pull his side within one.
In the 86th minute, Brenden Aaronson embarked on a stunning, weaving run into the box and when the ball was finally knocked off his foot it knocked off of Larrys Mabiala's ankle and to into Przybylko's path. The big striker spun and finished but saw the offside flag go up. Replays indicated Przybylko may have been even with Mabiala, but in the end the offsides call stood.
The Union will now return to Philadelphia with the MLS on notice that Curtin's team has a rejuvenated Andre Blake, budding homegrown stars, and a Venezuelan engine in El Brujo Martinez that is just getting started.