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10th Nov 2018

Portland Timbers misunderstand away goals rule, celebrating game they’d not yet won

The away goals rule can be complicated to understand, if you're a child who's literally never watched football before in their life

Reuben Pinder

The away goals rule can be complicated to understand

To the uninitiated, some of the laws of football can be confusing. The offside rule, for example, while simple to fans of the game, can be quite difficult to grasp for someone who’s never played or watched it before. Similarly in other sports, try explaining LBW to someone who’s never watched cricket.

However, it shouldn’t be unreasonable to expect professional players of the game to know how the game works. But on Friday night, Portland Timbers players showed that even pros get confused by the basic stipulations of the game they’re playing in.

Playing in the second leg of the MLS Conference semi-final against Seattle Sounders, Portland carried a 2-1 lead from the first leg at their home stadium.

Seattle took a 2-1 lead in the 93rd minute of normal time in the second leg, taking the tie to extra time, with the aggregate score locked at 3-3 and no away goal advantage to separate the sides.

Extra time then saw both sides score again, with the second leg finished 3-2 to Seattle and the tie finishing 4-4 on aggregate.

Some Portland Timbers players dropped to the floor and pointed to the sky in celebration upon hearing the final whistle, under the impression that their away goal in extra time would count double.

However, it required Portland defender Zarek Valentin to explain to his teammates that they had not won, and that the game had gone to penalties – unlike the Champions League, the away goals rule is not applied to goals scored in extra time in the MLS Cup.

Thankfully for Portland, they won the penalty shoot-out 4-2, otherwise this episode could have been really embarrassing.

The Timbers will now face the winners of Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City, who are tied at 1-1 after the first leg of their Conference semi-final. The winner of that tie will then go on to the MLS Cup final to play the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals.

As I said, rules can be complicated, but this table should help explain the format of the MLS Cup.