The Portland Timbers were three goals from an appearance in the MLS Cup Final. Unfortunately, they fell short, which leaves us with the difficult decision of who to root for tomorrow afternoon: the Timbers' kryptonite, Real Salt Lake, face off against the remarkably stingy Sporting Kansas City.
Here are my best reasons to root for each team:
Real Salt Lake
- The West Coast was by far the better conference this year, something that we took a look at back in October. So, having already beaten the Timbers who finished at the top of the conference, you have to suspect that RSL have already overcome their most difficult challenge. Now they just have to finish off the East with a victory tomorrow.
- This is probably Jason Kreis's last season with RSL as rumors continuously link him to 2015 expansion side New York City FC. Despite his excellent record as a head coach with RSL, a second MLS Cup victory for Kreis's side would cement him as Salt Lake royalty before he leaves.
- Forget all the rebuilding-year noise, RSL has shown what a team built around a consistently solid core group of players can become. Caleb Porter (et al.) may have his own plans for the Timbers, but the parallels between what has been accomplished in Salt Lake and what he hopes to accomplish here are clear.
- Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, and Javier Morales are all veterans of Major League Soccer who have been huge parts of the league's growth leading up to the Timbers' arrival. Plus they are just good to watch, as long as they are playing someone else. Morales, though, deserves special credit as he was significantly involved in getting Diego Valeri, his friend, to come to the US.
Sporting Kansas City
- Timbers fans are certainly sick of watching Real Salt Lake win. It just happens way too often when the Timbers are involved. An SKC win would be a welcome change of pace for viewers in Portland.
- All too often in MLS, players are sent off on loan and never heard from again. The Timbers have had some luck with loans since joining MLS with both Bright Dike and Andrew Jean-Baptiste playing roles in the first team last year after going out on loan. Dom Dwyer, who will feature for SKC tomorrow, went out on a loan of his own this season, scoring 15 goals in 13 match for Orlando SC on their way to winning the USL Pro title. Upon his return, Dwyer scored SKC's winning goal over the Houston Dynamo; the goal that sent them to the MLS Cup.
- Portland may have the best fans in the league, but the folks in Kansas City are no slouches. How much fun would it be to watch these folks go crazy? Plus, RSL fans have been a little whiny recently. (Just kidding, Matt.)