Portland advance in MLS Cup in penalty shootout over Sounders

Seattle Sounders FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei (24) fails to save a goal during a penalty kick shootout against the Portland Timbers at CenturyLink Field. — Reuters

LOS ANGELES — The Portland Timbers edged Seattle in a penalty shootout to clinch their MLS Cup playoff tie, despite dropping the second leg 3-2 to the Sounders on Thursday.

The final score after extra time added up to an aggregate score of 4-4 after Portland's 2-1 win in the opening leg last Sunday.

But the Timbers prevailed 4-2 in the penalty shootout to reach the Western Conference final, where they'll face either Real Salt Lake or Sporting Kansas City — who played to a 1-1 draw in their first-leg match and meet again on Sunday.

Raul Ruidiaz's second goal of the night three minutes into injury time forced extra time.

Ruidiaz had put the Sounders up 1-0 in the 68th minute as Portland goalkeeper Jeff Attinella failed to control a long cross and Ruidiaz seized upon the loose ball to put Seattle in control of the tie.

Portland responded 10 minutes later when Sebastian Blanco fired a low shot from just outside the penalty area. Ruidiaz then grabbed his third straight goal of the tie for the Sounders — firing a volley that made it 2-1 Seattle and knotted the tie at 3-3 with neither team holding the away goal tiebreaker.

Portland grabbed an early advantage in extra time as substitute Dairon Asprilla fired in a header, but Blanco's handball at the other end allowed Nicolas Lodeiro a chance from the penalty spot which he converted to level the tie again.

In the shootout, both teams made their first attempts before Seattle missed two straight to put Portland in control. Seattle keeper Stefan Frei saved an attempt from Liam Ridgewell to keep the Sounders in it, but Asprilla converted the Timbers' final penalty to seal the win.

Zlatan 'optimistic' he'll

remain with LA Galaxy

Zlatan Ibrahimovic says he's "optimistic" he'll be back with the Los Angeles Galaxy next season, despite reports of European suitors keen to lure the Swedish star from Major League soccer.

Ibrahimovic has a contract through the 2019 season, but Serie A giants AC Milan have expressed an interest in bringing him back to Italy. The Galaxy were energized in Ibrahimovic's first MLS season but nevertheless fell short of an MLS Cup playoff berth.

On the final day of the regular season they surrendered a two-goal lead in a 3-2 loss to the Houston Dynamo that ended their playoff hopes. Reports in Italy indicate AC Milan, are interested in bringing Ibrahimovic back to Europe.

Ibrahimovic, who scored 22 goals in 27 games for the Galaxy this season, said that if he does decide to return to the Galaxy he wants them to be contenders.

"For me to return, I want to be able to challenge for the trophy," he said. "I'm not here for vacation. I'm here for the challenge. I want to feel I have a chance to be the best in MLS — my team, not me, because I am the best. I want to feel my team can compete against others in a good way." — AFP