DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Timbers U23 squad were crowned champions of the USL 2 Western Conference with a dramatic win over the Park City Red Wolves from Utah.
The two respective Western division champions met up in Iowa to see who would come out on top to take the prize of being the Western Conference champion, here’s how it went:
The match was not looking to be a good one for the Timbers when at the 2’ minute mark Park City took the lead on a corner kick. The ball was bouncing around in the box before Park City forward Ryen Jiba came in to capitalize on the chaos and give his team the advantage. Things could have gone very poorly for the Timbers until just one minute later Jose Sosa played a ball out wide to Marco Afonso who cut inside and curled the ball to the back post with the outside of his foot to bring us even at the 3’ minute mark’.
Jose Sosa would get involved again just 7 minutes later to give us the lead in the 10’. Levonte Johnson was played through but the defenders recovered quickly, Johnson was able to stay on the ball, however, play a soft pass back to Sosa who smashed it past the keeper just outside the 18 yard box to put the Timbers up 2-1 with plenty of time left in the game for any team to make their mark.
Both teams battled the rest of the half but the score held at 2-1.
The start of the second half saw plenty of back and forth action with neither team commanding the game, but both teams continued to get their chances without any one player able to find the finish. A handball in the box in the 56’ drawn by Marco Afonso gave the team a clear chance to extend the lead to 2. Afonso stepped up to the spot and easily put it past the keeper to turn the score to 3-1.
Afonso’s goal seemed to indicate a comfortable shift for the Timbers, but in the 62’ goalkeeper George Tasouris strained a muscle as he attempted to find a pass, leading to a shot from Caleb Wight 35 yards out that Tasouris was unable to keep out as he hobbled to try and save it: 3-2. Trevor Wilson subbed on for Tasouris who was unable to continue for the rest of the game.
The midwest heat was wearing the team thin, and Park City enjoyed a comfortable stretch of play where they were generating quality chances but could not finish them until the 88’. A foul about 30 yards out saw service to the back post where Caleb Wight found his second of the night to bring the match 3-3. No team was able to find the game winner after 90 minutes, which meant extra time would have to happen.
Both teams continued to go back and forth, with the Timbers having the better of the chances. Afonso was close to having his third of the night during this time but it unfortunately hit the post and stayed out of the goal. With no team finding the go-ahead goal, penalties ensued.
Park City shot first. Their first player stepped up, took his shot, and it hit the crossbar and stayed out! This miss would give the Timbers a bit of comfort stepping up for their shots. Koa Santos stepped up for the first penalty and finished it calmly: 1-0 Timbers. Park City took their next shot and tied it up: 1-1. Emory Rapaport easily put his past the keeper to make it 2-1 in favor of the Timbers. The next Park City player scored his penalty to even the score: 2-2. David Brog stepped up and smashed it in the top corner to make it 3-2. The next penalty for Park City was saved by Trevor Wilson, and the team was confident that this miss would secure their win over the Red Wolves. Marios Andreou stepped up knowing that scoring would mean the Timbers would advance. He took his shot, and it went in, securing the Western Conference trophy and ensuring a game against the winner of Kalamazoo FC vs Des Moines Menace.
The team will be back in action this Sunday, July 25 at 7:30 PM Central Time to take on the Central Conference champion Des Moines Menace in a game that will decide who goes on to the USL League 2 Final. A livestream link for the match can be found here.
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