1. Eastbound & Down (to Ohio) – will Portland's Victory Log sneak into MAPFRE Stadium?
The Timbers sure do love their famous log-cutting tradition – so much so that they strapped it to a tractor-trailer and drove it cross-country from Providence Park to Columbus, in hopes of replicating Timber Joey's post-goal chainsaw slicing. But Crew SC officials are apparently in no mood to welcome this particular piece of lumber into their house for the big game. Will Joey and the Victory Log find a home base?
2. Because the Timbers are a team of destiny
Inches. Millimeters. A flailing limb. However you want to describe it, the Timbers were THISCLOSE to being eliminated from the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs.
3. Because you might see a dramatic ending
The last MLS Cup I attended was back in 2002, when Carlos Ruiz scored a golden goal to secure the Cup for LA Galaxy. I'm hoping I'll see something similar on Sunday (though we no longer have the golden goal rule).
4. Kei's Head: Not just about the hair
Columbus Crew SC Kei Kamara is the GREATEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD at heading the ball. Go ahead and name another player who is so dominant in the air that they also use him to defend corners and set pieces. Yeah, thought so.
5. Because Nagbe is Crawford and Crawford is Nagbe
I spent the entire Portland portion of the MLS Cup press conference trying to figure out why Darlington Nagbe looked so … familiar.
And then it hit me – he bears a striking resemblance to NBA super sub and ball-handler extraordinaire Jamal Crawford. The man known as "J-Crossover" hails FROM Cascadia (Seattle, don't tell the Timbers Army) and shares a proclivity for in-game trickery. Like how this:
... is pretty much the basketball equivalent of this:
Can't say who's next to get got, but as long as Portland's on the pitch, you're unwise to take your eyes off of Dear Darlington.
6. A chance for Kei to spread (more) love …
Among his diverse lineup of celebrations, Kei Kamara's heart-shaped hands are what we know best. A goal on Sunday—a high-percentage possibility given his MLS-best 25 strikes in 2015—would give us all another glimpse of his heartfelt gesture.
7. Home? Where the heart is
Caleb Porter on Saturday called Ohio a “hotbed that’s … a little under the radar” when it comes to soccer talent. If Sunday’s upcoming game is any indication, he might be right. Each side will have starters fighting to win an MLS Cup in their home state, including Darlington Nagbe for the Timbers and Columbus native Wil Trapp for Crew SC. There should be plenty of family and friends in the stands, and the trophy celebration should be a little more special for certain Buckeyes.
8. Cedrick will speed up the party
We all know about Cedrick Mabwati's speed. Some of us are aware of his ability to boss the "hover board" around Columbus. But you probably didn't know he's an outstanding reggaetón performer? J Balvin and Daddy Yankee better watch out, because #CM11 está en la casa.
9. Because Kei might score, and that means "ACTION!"
First things first, put up some #heartshapedhands for Kei. I can’t think of a crueler turn of fate than for the Crew SC star to finally earn a spot on the MLS Cup stage only to see a last-minute knock force him to watch from the stands. Here’s a prediction: If Kamara does play – and I think he will – he’ll score a goal in front of the Columbus faithful then cement himself in Cup lore with a viral celebration that makes what you see above seem half-baked.
10. It’s the Timbers’ first MLS Cup hurrah
The Portland Timbers’ first five seasons in MLS have offered lows, like a disappointing end-of-season record in 2012, and more struggles in 2014. That should make the club’s first MLS Cup berth that much sweeter, with both player and fan hunger for ultimate victory translating to electric energy on the pitch.
This MLS Cup final marks the first appearance by ANY of Cascadia’s teams – and some fans of Portland's rivals – the Seattle Sounders and the Vancouver Whitecaps – are temporarily dropping the hatred to root for their region.
11. Oh, the stars you may see
Could such luminaries as “How I Met Your Mother Star” Josh Radnor, actress Beverly d’Angelo, or country music star Dwight Yoakum be in attendance at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday? We don’t know for certain, but don’t be surprised if a local celebrity or two shows up for the big game. And if Crew SC win it, the city will be partying harder than Columbus native Jack Nicklaus when he won the Masters in ’86 (he won a yellow shirt for that win. Coincidence? You be the judge).
12. Live Like A Refugee ...
I know lots of folks like to keep their sports separate from "real life," but I'm not one of them. Darlington Nagbe and Kei Kamara are both capital-R Refugees of war-torn countries, and Justin Meram is a the son of Iraqi-born Chaldean Catholics – a group specifically targeted by ISIS – who immigrated to Michigan decades ago. I will watch them all on Sunday, and I will be proud to be American.