Zac McGraw was in the right place at the right time to score the deciding goal for the visiting Portland Timbers, who were in control throughout while defeating Austin FC 2-1 on Wednesday in a key late-season MLS Western Conference match.
The Timbers (9-8-12, 39 points) won their second straight game and moved above the playoff line into seventh place with five regular-season matches remaining. It was just Portland’s third road win of the year.
Austin (15-7-6, 51 points), which lost for only the third time at home this year, could have clinched a playoff spot on Wednesday with a victory and some help. Austin has six regular-season matches remaining and is solidly in second place in the West.
The hosts dominated the opening minutes, but the Timbers had the best chance at an early goal. Two Portland attackers got behind Austin goalkeeper Brad Stuver in the 14th minute, but Ruben Gabrielsen saved the home side by clearing Yimmi Chara’s shot off the line and away.
The Timbers broke the 0-0 tie two minutes later as Bill Tuiloma headed home a soft crossing pass from Eryk Williamson after a free kick.
Surrendering the first goal seemed to deflate Austin, which struggled to find crisp connections through the remainder of the first half.
Austin’s Sebastian Driuissi had an excellent opportunity to tie the game in the 57th minute, but his header off a pass into the box by Danny Hoesen clanged off the crossbar and out of danger.
Portland then added to its lead in the 73rd minute when McGraw made easy work of a rebound of a shot by Williamson that was blocked by Stuver. The ball fell right at the feet of the Timbers center back, who was unmarked in the goalmouth and scored his first MLS in his 30th career game.
Austin finally responded and it was Driussi, a leading candidate for league MVP, who found the net in the 79th minute. Driussi leapt to redirect a pass from Felipe Martins and headed the shot past Portland goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic.
The goal was the league-leading 20th of the season for Driussi, who has now contributed to a goal via scoring or assisting in 11 consecutive matches.
The start of the match was delayed 1 hour, 45 minutes because of lightning.
–Field Level Media
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