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NYCFC knocked out of MLS is Back Tournament with quarterfinal loss to Timbers

Portland Timbers forward Andy Polo (7) celebrates his

Portland Timbers forward Andy Polo (7) celebrates his goal against the New York City during the second half of an MLS soccer match, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, in Kissimmee, Fla.  Credit: AP/John Raoux

New York City FC’s bubble has burst.

The club’s MLS is Back Tournament campaign is over after falling Saturday in the quarterfinals to the Portland Timbers, 3-1. NYCFC and Portland were tied 1-1 at the break, but a pair of first-class finishes by Timbers substitutes in the second half went unmatched by City.

Diego Valeri, a four-time MLS All-Star, entered at halftime and scored in the 65th minute to give Portland the advantage. Andy Polo came in at the 75-minute mark, scoring a long-range laser less than 90 seconds later to virtually end NYCFC’s hopes at advancing.

The defeat sends City home after mixed results in Orlando. Early losses to the Philadelphia Union and Orlando City SC had NYCFC on the edge of the competition entering its final group match, but a slim win over Inter Miami proved enough for the final spot in the Round of 16. City then upset Toronto FC, long a thorn in its side in knockout competitions, with a thorough 3-1 victory, but couldn’t replicate the result against the Timbers.

NYCFC was headed in the right direction after an early penalty. Jesús Medina both drew the foul to win the attempt and buried the kick to open scoring in the 27th minute. Medina got the call after going to the ground while battling Larrys Mabiala on the left side of the box. The 23-year-old calmly stepped up for the kick, sending it to the bottom right of the net as Timbers keeper Steve Clark dove the wrong way.

The Timbers didn’t create too many chances in the first half, but when they turned on their attack near the break, they did enough to even the score. After working the ball to the left wing, Portland left back Jorge Villafaña sent a ball into the box. NYCFC centerback Maxime Chanot attempted to play it out of the area, but his deflection sent the ball directly to Sebastián Blanco, who took one touch before curling the ball around a pair of NYCFC defenders and in to the net. City didn’t respond well to the equalizer, with Alex Ring and Medina both receiving yellow cards out for fouls made in frustration before halftime.

Early in the second half, NYCFC came out calmer, but couldn’t create much offensively. Sean Johnson kept things level in the 54th minute, stopping a pair of consecutive close-range shots from Jeremy Ebobisse.

Maxi Moralez entered the game in the 56th minute, changing the NYCFC attack a bit, but before City could create much, Portland took advantage of its own substitution. Valeri got on the board in the 65th minute, teaming with Jaroslaw Niezgoda on a give-and-go in the box to take the lead. Polo’s goal, however, stole the show. Not long after coming on, the Peruvian brought the ball up alone the left side, stepped onto his right to beat a defender and fired a blistering shot from the top of the box into the far corner.

NYCFC wasn’t able to make enough happen to pull closer in the final 15 minutes, picking up a few more yellow cards for good measure. It remains unclear when NYCFC will next take the field. No games are scheduled beyond the MLS is Back Tournament, which was set up to give the clubs a safe bubble environment to resume competition. The league previously said it would like to resume play in home markets, but no formal plans have been announced.

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