Heading into Wednesday’s first semifinal of the MLS is Back Tournament between the Portland Timbers and Philadelphia Union, the plucky young Union were the fashionable pick to advance to next week’s final in Central Florida.
The battle-tested Timbers had other ideas. And for most of the 90 minutes, Portland was the hungrier, sharper, better team, one worthy of the spot in Tuesday’s championship match it claimed with a 2-1 victory on goals by Jeremy Ebobisse and Sebastian Blanco.
Ebobisse’s first-half header came off a sweet Diego Valeri cross.
For Ebobisse — one of the breakout stars of this tournament, which has been played in a tightly-controlled bubble on the Walt Disney World campus amid the coronavirus pandemic — the strike was his fourth goal in six matches at the one-off event.
The 23-year-old actually could’ve opened the scoring even earlier, but the service from his fellow young gun Eryk Williamson was slightly too tall. It was just one of several chances Portland missed in the first half — the best of them a rocket from distance by Sebastian Blanco that forced a top-shelf save from Philly keeper Andre Blake.