02.08.2020 07:33 h

Minnesota, Portland Timbers advance to MLS semi-finals

Diego Valeri and Andy Polo scored second-half goals Saturday to lift the Portland Timbers into the semi-finals of the Major League Soccer is Back Tournament, while Minnesota United also claimed a last-four berth.

The Timbers rallied to eliminate New York City FC 3-1 while Robin Lod and Jacori Hayes scored seconds apart in the first half in Minnesota's 4-1 romp over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Portland advanced into a Wednesday semi-final against the Philadelphia Union while the Loons booked a berth Thursday against Orlando City with the other spot in the August 11 final at stake.

The tournament -- played without spectators in a quarantine bubble at Disney World in Orlando, Florida -- marks the league's return after shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic in March after only two matches per club.

The Minnesota-Orlando matchup gives Loons manager Adrian Heath, a 59-year-old Englishman, a chance at revenge against the side that sacked him as manager in 2016 with a team that has impressed him.

"This is the best group of people we've had in the club, in terms of actually doing what the staff want, doing what is expected of them, and being a really good teammate, even when it's not going great for yourself, and that's what football is all about," Heath said.

In the nightcap, Paraguayan midfielder Jesus Medina scored on a penalty kick in the 27th minute for NYCFC but the Timbers answered before halftime, Argentine midfielder Sebastian Blanco striking back in the 43rd minute to equalize 1-1 at the break.

Valeri, an Argentine midfielder who entered at halftime, put Portland ahead to stay in the 65th minute and Peruvian midfielder Polo scored in the 76th minute, seconds after stepping onto the field.

In the opener, Finnish midfielder Lod opened the scoring in the 20th minute and US midfielder Hayes found the back of the net in the 21st to put Minnesota ahead 2-0 at halftime.

The Earthquakes answered on Magnus Eriksson's penalty kick in the 50th minute but Minnesota restored a two-goal margin in the 56th minute on a goal from Paraguayan striker Luis Amarilla.

US midfielder Marlon Hairston netted a clincher for Minnesota in the 86th minute to create the final margin.

"In soccer and in life, you have to recognize when they outplay you, and this is one of those cases," San Jose coach Matias Almeyda said.