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Portland Timbers clinch spot in MLS Is Back championship

Portland Timbers clinch spot in MLS Is Back championship
Portland Timbers goalie Steve Clark had seven saves in a win against the Philadelphia Union in the MLS Is Back Tournament semifinals Wednesday in Orlando, Fla. Photo courtesy of Jared Martinez/Matt Stith/Devin L'Amoreaux/MLS

Aug. 6 (UPI) -- The Portland Timbers clinched a spot in the MLS Is Back Tournament championship with a 2-1 semifinal win against the Philadelphia Union in Orlando, Fla.

Jeremy Ebobisse and Sebastian Blanco scored for Portland in the triumph Wednesday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex inside Walt Disney World Resort. Andrew Wooten scored for Philadelphia.

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"I think our performance today was great," Timbers center midfielder Diego Valeri told reporters. "It would mean a lot for me in this part of my career to get back to Portland with another trophy."

Valeri -- the 2017 MLS MVP -- set up the first score when he sent in a corner kick from the right side in the 13th minute. Valeri's cross sailed through the box and found Ebobisse, who redirected the feed into the right side of the net.

The Timbers held on to the 1-0 lead through halftime before Blanco doubled the advantage in the 70th minute. That score also came off a corner kick. Valeri sent that service in from the right side before defender Dario Zuparic headed the feed toward the near post. Blanco then headed the ball in from point-blank range for a 2-0 lead.

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Wooten cut the Timbers lead in half in the 85th minute. Union midfielder Jamiro Monteiro started that play with a free kick from about 20 yards out. Timbers keeper Steve Clark blocked Monteiro's attempt, but the ball bounced away from the net-minder. Wooten then ran in and netted a follow-up shot from about five yards out.

The Union appeared to score an equalizer less than a minute later, but referees called Kacper Przybylko offside on the play and disallowed the score.

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"It was a great performance from our players," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. "I'm extremely proud of the way our guys were able to execute our plan.

"We had a lot of discipline, work and honesty from our guys to make sure we got a very important result."

Orlando City will play Minnesota United at 8 p.m. EDT Thursday in Orlando to decide the Timbers' championship opponent. The MLS Is Back Tournament final will be at 8:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.

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