The Portland Timbers host Sporting Kansas City tonight as they look to advance out of the knockout round in the 2015 MLS Playoffs and win a berth in this weekend's home and away series against the second place Vancouver Whitecaps. Kansas City is a team that plays to win, even if their form coming into the playoffs is less than stellar, so the Timbers will need eery bit of the goal scoring acumen that they displayed coming down the stretch of the regular season if they want to advance.
With questions about the Timbers' midfield, about the only thing that we can be sure of is that Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri will need to find a way to unlock this SKC defense and the Timbers' back line will need to stay strong for the full 90, or even 120, minutes.
Match Preview: "Now, however, the Timbers are getting the ball in the back of the net, scoring ten goals -- a quarter of the team's output for the season -- in the team's last three games. The shots have not been markedly better and there certainly have not been more of them, but the chances that they are coming from have improved just enough to make a difference and that is something that, if the Timbers can carry it forward into tonight's match, should prove to be a difference maker.
Just how the Timbers go about doing that, however, very much rests on the shape of their midfield. With the return of Diego Valeri from suspension, the Timbers will need to move somebody around in order to get the Maestro back on the pitch."
Preview Interview: "Most recently, KC was again forced into a very weird lineup. Vermes trotted out a front three consisting entirely of back-ups and even lacking a real striker. It was just a few days after playing 120 minutes plus PK's to win the Open Cup, so legs were tired. Because of this, I don't think anyone would deny SKC went into a very defensive mindset playing in Portland. After his team did the job in keeping the game close, Vermes was able to bring on starters to try and steal points. But as you mentioned, this time around Portland is in great offensive form. PLUS, the SKC defense has made some terrible, awful, embarrassing mistakes/giveaways the last couple weeks."
Watch it on: Unimas, ROOT Sports
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. PT at Providence Park in Portland, OR
Portland Timbers: 15-11-8, Finished in 3rd place in the Western Conference
Sporting Kansas City: 14-11-9, Finished in 6th place in the Western Conference