The Portland Timbers host Sporting Kansas City today in the first leg of the 2018 Western Conference Final. After all the excitement of the semifinals and the Timbers’ penalty kick win over their arch-rivals, the Seattle Sounders, the Timbers still have a long way to go if they want to get past SKC and play in the MLS Cup Final.
While the Timbers have been a team that have thrived on their organized, defensive play in 2018, their grinder mentality will be put to the test against an SKC side that boasted the second best goals against in the West and the second best goals for in the West, ending the season comfortably in first place in the conference.
Since the playoffs began, however, SKC have looked vulnerable, giving up chance after chance in their second leg defeat of Real Salt Lake that was closer than the 4-2 scoreline suggests.
If the Timbers are able to put the wobbly passing and defending of their own second leg against the Sounders behind them and put in a performance like they did in the first — strangling off any chances for their opponent and taking whatever chances present themselves — then they have every chance of coming out of today’s match with a favorable result. And there is every reason to believe that the Timbers will be back at the top of their game when they come into today’s match on two weeks of rest, rather than three days.
Plus, for the first time this year, the Timbers will have Diego Chara available for a match against Kansas City. The statistics have been widely broadcast this season, but it bears repeating that the Timbers just don’t win without Chara on the pitch and while Sporting have had the better of the Timbers this season both previous matches have been without the Colombian midfield dynamo.
Storylines: “SKC thrive in possession, 54.6% on average, which is good for second in the MLS behind New York City FC. Beware of their counter press to get the opposition to cough up the ball, then they work it through the middle of the pitch. So only look for them to swing it out to the wings (which are very good) if they can’t get anything going through the central locations.”
Watch it on: FOX Sports 1
Where: Providence Park in Portland, OR
When: Sunday, November 25 at 4:30 p.m. PT
Portland Timbers: Finished in 5th place in the Western Conference, Beat FC Dallas in the Knockout Round, Beat Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Semifinals
Sporting Kansas City: Finished in 1st place in the Western Conference, Beat Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Semifinals