The road to the 2015 MLS Cup Final has been fraught with peril; from the close call against Kansas City to the danger from Dallas, the Portland Timbers have managed to stay just a step ahead of their opponents.
With less than two days before kickoff in the biggest game in the club's history, let's take a nice stroll down memory lane and take a look at just how the Timbers advanced through the playoffs and made their way to the final.
The Knockout Round
Having found a chance at the win after SKC had seeming sew the game up, the Timbers -- and maybe fate -- held on to grab the win, finally getting it in the eleventh round of the penalty shootout as Adam Kwarasey converted his spot kick before saving the attempt of his SKC counterpart, Jon Kempin, and sealing the win.
The Conference Semifinals
On just three days rest, the Portland Timbers kept the clean sheet against the Vancouver Whitecaps today in the first leg of the two teams' home and away series in the MLS Cup Playoffs. With the Timbers unable to break through the Whitecaps' league leading defense as well, the match was a cagey and tactical affair, missing the fireworks and hard feelings of Thursday's win over Sporting Kansas City.
The Timbers broke through in the 31st minute off a quickly taken throw in. Rodney Wallace collected the ball off the fast restart and played a short diagonal ball into the Whitecaps box for Diego Valeri to run onto. With a quick touch the Maestro slipped a quick pass toward the top of the box, finding the feet of Fanendo Adi. The Timbers' leading scorer had no hesitation in showing how he earned that designation, hitting Valeri's pass first time and slamming a left footed shot past the Whitecaps keeper at the near post.
The Conference Finals
The Timbers struck first in the 23rd minute after a quick break down the pitch earned the team a corner kick. In Diego Valeri's absence it was Darlington Nagbe who stepped up to swing the ball in, dropping an out swinger just outside the six yard box. Dairon Asprilla rose to meet it and got off a glancing header across the face of goal where Liam Ridgewell was waiting. With only an open net in front of him, Ridgewell had no problem bundling the ball home to open the scoring.
First it was Nat Borchers coming up big with an extended toe to block away a free shot from Perez inside the Timbers box, then, in the final minute of added time, Lucas Melano put an end to the Dallas comeback with a brilliant goal. Diego Valeri was again the playmaker for the Timbers, setting Melano free in the Dallas box with a tricky back heel. With the ball at his feet, Melano cut around a defender then took the ball to the end line, getting around Gonzalez and just barely touching the ball over the goal line to put the Timbers up 5-3 on aggregate.