It appeared to be another heartbreaking blunder in Steve Clark's win-or-go-home career when he gave up a game-tying penalty kick in the 81st minute after failing to secure the ball.
(Timbers fans will all remember when his gaffe gave Portland the early lead in the 2015 MLS Cup.)
FC Cincinnati converted the penalty kick to tie the game 1-1.
But Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese still had trust in Clark.
"Players make mistakes every now and then and it is very important to give them trust in difficult moments," said Savarese. "We knew that things would happen, and he knew Steve knew the situation. We know players try their very best match after match and even after this match, the PKs, Steve showed the trust that we give him is worth it. So, I think that was wonderful.”
Then, in the 86th minute, a shot bounced off of Clark's hands to hit the post and was inches away from the back of the net.
Despite Clark's errors, the Timbers got the game to go to penalty kicks with a chance to earn their way into the quarterfinals of the MLS is Back Tournament.
Entering penalties, Savarese still had full faith in his keeper.
“I’m a firm believer that the most important part is always how people respond to situations that are difficult and if you know Clark, he is one the bounces back right away,” he said.
“When we went to PKs he told me, ‘I got it. Don’t worry.‘ He’s one we know will understand he could’ve been better in the situation before but right away comes back strong as he did during the PKs.”
Savarese wasn't alone in his confidence in Clark. Sebastian Blanco echoed his coach's sentiment.
“If you knew Steve Clark, you would know he doesn’t need support," said Blanco. "I love his personality. Steve knew about his mistake and he knew that he would save us. Everybody makes mistakes and there was really no need for us to go that way. He knew that at the very end he was going to be able to perform and fortunately enough we were able to score our penalty kicks too. He fixed his mistake and there was really no need for any conversation after the match.”
Got it he did as with penalties tied 2-2, Clark guessed the correct way and saved a shot from Jurgen Locadia. Then down 3-2, Kendall Waston's penalty was off frame giving Clark two saves to close out penalties.
Then, Timbers designated player Jaroslaw Niezgoda sent the Timbers to the next round of the MLS is Back Tournament.
In the end, Clark was the difference in Portland advancing after winning the penalty shootout 4-2, with Portland not missing a single penalty.
Now the team looks ahead to NYCFC who they will play in the quarterfinals.
“I think having three more days to rest is important," said the Timbers head coach. "That’s something that could help them, but our group is doing very well physically. During the quarantine we worked physically a lot and I think we are going to go out there with our best 11. NYCFC is a very organized team and they play good soccer. They didn’t really score a lot of goals at the beginning and that didn’t really match the style they were playing and the end you can maybe tell they were a little lucky they qualified, but they have really good structure and a really good team. So, I know it’s going to be a very difficult match and we are going to be ready for it.”
Portland plays NYFC in the quarterfinals of the MLS is Back Tournament on August 1 at 7:30 p.m. PT.