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Timbers blank Austin FC for franchise-best 17th win

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Cristhian Paredes, Jaroslaw Niezgoda and Sebastian Blanco scored goals and Steve Clark had to stop just four shots as the host Portland Timbers set the stage for the playoffs with a dominating 3-0 win over Austin FC on Sunday in a Western Conference match on Decision Day, the last day of the MLS regular season.

The Timbers (17-13-4, 55 points) were already guaranteed a spot in the playoffs and the fourth seed in the West. Portland will host Minnesota United in the first round of the postseason, set for the weekend of Nov. 20 after a week off for the international break.

Paredes got the Timbers on the board in the 17th minute with an easy goal after a last clearing attempt from the Austin FC defense. Santiago Moreno began the scoring play, laying the ball off to Blanco, who volleyed a pass across the goal mouth to Paredes for the easy chip in and his third goal of the season.

Portland added to its advantage in the final seconds of the first half with Niezgoda using his chest to score from close range after a spot on centering pass by Yimmi Chara. The play was ignited by another lazy clearing attempt by the Austin defense, with Chara working extra to pick the pocket of Zan Kolmanic in advance of his assist to Niezgoda.

Blanco put the Timbers up by three goals in the 53rd minute, literally standing a yard from the goal line at the back post for a deflected pass from Niezgoda for a tap-in tally.

Clark’s clean sheet was his seventh of the season and the 44th of his eight-year MLS career. Portland beat Austin for the first time ever after dropping its first two matches with the expansion team.

Austin FC (9-21-4, 31 points) has long been eliminated from the postseason and finished in 12th place in the 13-team West, while going 2-14-2 on the road in its first season. Austin had outscored the Timbers 7-2 in its two earlier wins, both in Texas.

Portland’s win on Sunday added to the team mark for most victories in a season it set on Wednesday in a victory over Real Salt Lake.

–Field Level Media

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