Portland Timbers' Adam Kwarasey says shootout was 'like a movie'
Portland Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey said Thursday's MLS playoff victory was "like a movie" after he made two saves and scored the winning penalty in a 7-6 shootout triumph over Sporting Kansas City.
The Timbers advanced to the Western Conference semifinals, but only after 11 rounds of penalties that came down to the keepers. Kwarasey buried his short and then stopped opposite number Jon Kempin's attempt to seal the win.
"It was like a movie," Kwarasey said. "I didn't expect it to go to penalties. I didn't expect to take a penalty. I'm still a little bit exhausted. It's a wonderful feeling."
Sporting KC had two opportunities to seal the game with a successful penalty, but the Timbers were bailed out by the goalposts both times. First, Kevin Ellis' shot in the sixth round bounced off the post to Kwarasey, and then in the ninth round Saad Abdul-Salaam managed to strike both posts before the ball stayed out.
"My heart stopped for a couple of seconds there," Kwarasey said.
Portland coach Caleb Porter gave credit to the home crowd for somehow ensuring Abdul-Salaam's double-post attempt did not go in.
"Our crowd, our fans, our supporters, the Timbers Army, I think they were the ones who kept that last ball out of the net," Porter said. "It was either them or God because the thing bounced twice, and I don't how it didn't go in. But it didn't.
"Something kept that goal out. I don't know what it was; maybe it was the air from them yelling so much. Something did, something kept it out. So I'm going to credit the Timbers Army."
Before the shootout, The Timbers looked to be going out before Maxi Urruti scored with two minutes left in extra time, and Porter said he enjoyed the late drama.
"It was a wonderful game. Great showcase for the league. Lots of drama. Goals. Physicality. Tension," Porter said. "Everything you want rolled into one.
"I don't think it's sunk in yet, to be honest with you. We've got guys that want to win and are hungry, and we got plays from different guys today to win the game. And we needed those plays, and that was ultimately what was the difference."
Kempin only entered the game in the 84th minute after Tim Melia was forced to leave with an injury. At the time, Sporting trailed 1-0, so the possibility of him facing a shootout seemed remote before Ellis forced extra time with a goal three minutes later.
The 22-year-old Kansas native, making just his ninth MLS appearance, said he wasn't too anxious because his first-ever MLS save came on a penalty last season against Vancouver.
"I've been there before, so I wasn't too nervous," Kempin said.
"I have confidence in the team," he continued. "I knew we were a goal down, but I knew we'd get a goal or two and we did. Credit to them. Our guys played awesome and it's just unlucky there at the end."
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Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes refused to blame his young goalkeeper for the defeat.
"He did great," Vermes said. "He did fantastic in the penalty-kick shootout. I thought he was calm and cool when he came in, in the last final minutes of the game. I also think that he gave us three chances to win it and we didn't take advantage of that. He did a great job and he has nothing to be disappointed about or anything other than we lost."
Sporting's season came to a heartbreaking end after just a single playoff game, but Vermes said he was proud of his side's resiliency.
"Look, it's always disappointing when you lose," Vermes said. "But our effort in the game -- to come in here, be down 1-nil, come back, overtime -- it says a lot about our guys, the way we play, the way we fight."