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Storylines: Houston Dynamo vs Portland Timbers

It’s on like Donkey Kong, Leg 1 starts now.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Portland Timbers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far

34 matches down, 5 to go.

The Timbers ended the regular season on a high note beating Vancouver 2-1 at the fortress that is Providence Park. With the win, the team took not only the Western Conference title, they brought the Cascadia Cup back home where it belongs: Soccer City U.S.A.

The road to the MLS Cup comes right through Providence Park, where opposing teams come to die. The Dynamo were able to eliminate Sporting Kansas City 1-0 in extra time. They’ll be running on about three days rest and went 120 minutes. The Timbers have had a week to get their heads right for a deep run in the playoffs. Will the week's rest be a good thing or could it come bite us in the arse?

The first leg is on the road in Houston, where the Timbers tied the Dynamo the last time they met in the regular season. Can the Timbers win on the road or will the surging Dynamo show that their home is a fortress?

Sleepy Hollow

It took Houston 94 minutes to get the game-winning goal against a disorganized and sometimes seemingly disinterested SKC. Usually, Houston is built for speed, not keeping clean sheets and the only reason they did this time was: Sporting KC. The Sporks looked terrible as did Houston. This is something that Portland needs to jump on, not only did the Dynamo not look good they’re going on three days rest.

You always hope the team you face in the semis is on short rest and heavy legs, and Houston played 120 minutes of football on Thursday. A fully rested Timbers squad should be able to maul the Dynamo - but I don’t want to get overconfident. We have two legs to sort it out and as I’ve been preaching all season - at the least, pick up a positive result on the road, win at home.

Built For Speed

As we know, the Dynamo are built for speed and they have the weapons to make life miserable for their opponents; from 22 year-old DP Tomas Martinez to Erik “Cubo” Torres. Though the last time these two teams met, they didn’t have the luxury of having Cubo as he was away in the Gold Cup playing for Mexico.

Our backline is going to have their hands full with not only Martinez and Torres but look out for the crafty Alberth Elis (who picked up the goal against SKC), and Romell Quioto (who came off the bench). Either way, 6 of the starting eleven went the distance on Thursday. They love to sit back, absorb some pressure and hit you on the counter, though they’ve only scored 6 goals this season on the counter attack, something to keep an eye on for sure.

The Green & Gold

Monday seems an odd time to hold a playoff match, but hey it’s MLS I wouldn’t expect anything less from those muttonheads. Either way, damn it feels good to be in the playoffs doesn't it?

One thing I’ve been thinking about is Adi. I believe we won’t see him again in 2017, he’s still listed as ‘questionable’. I’m not sure if he’s even returned to training yet, which I would assume would rule him out of the playoffs altogether. If he does somehow make the 18, it won’t be as a starter. He’ll likely come off the bench as maybe a super-sub type role, I’m just not holding my breath.

Other than that, the Timbers have as close to a first choice eleven as we’re going to get, and they have performed admirably. The recent form of Liam Ridgewell cannot be ignored.

While I was early and often when it came to bitching about Liam Ridgewell and his injuries - he’s made me do a 180. You can tell when he’s in and out of the lineup, they aren’t as organized at the back.

Like I said at the outset, 34 matches down, 5 to go.