112315_isi_borchersnat_mlsmj101815225 Michael Janosz/isiphotos.com
Major League Soccer

Three Takeaways from the First Leg of Western Final

An absolute wonder-strike set the tone for the first clash between FC Dallas and Portland. With the Timbers boasting a 3-1 advantage, FC Dallas has plenty to accomplish in the return leg. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
November 23, 2015
12:00 PM

IN THE FIRST LEG of the Western Conference Final, Portland took care of business at home thanks to a strong performance from its midfield. Despite missing Diego Valeri, the Timbers thoroughly outplayed FC Dallas and absolutely deserved its 3-1 victory. Here are my thoughts on the game.

Asprilla’s goal was one for the ages

In the 53rd minute Portland seized control of the game thanks to a wonder-goal from Dairon Asprilla. It was a phenomenal strike that was only further evidence of just how great these MLS playoffs have been.

Some of the individual goals have been stunning—Juan Agudelo’s bicycle kick in the knockout round against D.C. United was especially terrific—but Asprilla might have topped it. When you watch on replay, you realize he didn’t even have much of a shooting lane, but somehow he was able to connect perfectly for a swerving shot that left Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez with no chance.

For Asprilla, 23, it was just his second MLS goal for the Timbers. And it was one to remember.

Dallas is still in it

This series is not over, and the away goal from David Texeira could prove a difference-maker. If you compared FC Dallas’ performances in the first and second leg of the conference semifinals against Seattle, you’d note that Oscar Pareja’s squad can quickly elevate its game. After dropping the opener, 2-1, Dallas dominated at home, and all the Sounders could hope to do was hang on and force extra time.

Dallas will attempt to do the same on Sunday, although it will need to finish much better than it did in the last round. The first 20 minutes will be crucial. One early goal would put the Timbers on their heels; concede first, though, and this series is likely over.

Portland has been playing extraordinarily well on the road and has a definitive advantage at the midway point, but it’s still easy to see Dallas getting back into this series.

Borchers acquisition pays dividends

It’s hard not to feel good for Nat Borchers. A 2-1 win for Portland would still probably have Dallas as the favorites to advance. A 3-1 win, however, has Portland in control of the series—and it was Borchers who delivered.

The 34-year-old Phoenix native, acquired last December from Real Salt Lake, has quietly been one of the offseason’s most significant pickups, having played more than 3,100 minutes in central defense and scoring four goals for the Timbers this season.

In 2014 Portland conceded 52 goals and failed to make the playoffs. In 2015, with Borchers leading the backline, it conceded 39 and is on the cusp of reaching MLS Cup.

Sunday’s goal was just icing on the cake.

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