Portland Timbers down Atlanta United on pair of PKs

Santiago Moreno and Dairon Asprilla converted penalty kicks on either side of halftime as the Portland Timbers held on for a crucial 2-1 victory over visiting Atlanta United on Sunday.

Asprilla has seven goals on the season with four from the penalty spot, and Moreno has six with three from the spot for Portland (10-8-12, 42 points), which has won three in a row and leads MLS with 11 penalties earned this season.

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Aljaz Ivacic made a lone save and got within a couple minutes of his sixth clean sheet as the Timbers guaranteed they will finish the weekend still holding one of the seven Western Conference playoff places.

Josef Martinez headed in Marcelino Moreno's corner kick very late for Atlanta (8-12-9, 33 points) for his team-leading eighth goal on just the team's second shot on target.

But that wasn't enough to keep Atlanta from closing what began as a five-point gap between United and the East playoff places.

Moreno gave Portland the lead in the 38th minute on a penalty he earned himself.

Portland Timbers players celebrate after scoring a goal against Atlanta United in MLS.
Portland Timbers players celebrate after scoring a goal against Atlanta United in MLS.
USA Today Images

After his cross was half-cleared by a header from an Atlanta defender, Moreno reached the loose ball in the penalty area first and chipped a touch over lunging defender Juan Jose Purata.

Referee Jon Freemon ruled Purata had caught Moreno with his leg. Moreno won a debate among his own players to take the spot kick, and drove a finish into the top left corner beyond the dive of Raul Gudino, who had guessed correctly.

Yimmi Chara earned the second penalty when he got behind Santiago Sosa and induced the midfielder into a clumsy tackle from behind.

Freemon waited a moment before awarding the penalty, but was vindicated by replays clearly showing a foul. This time Gudino guessed wrong, leaving a simple finish for Asprilla.

Atlanta probably had the best chance of the match prior to the opening goal, when Luiz Araujo was played on goal by Sosa but had his effort saved by Ivacic.

The rebound fell to Ronaldo Cisneros in a promising spot, but he badly missed the target on his one-time attempt.