Columbus Crew SC vs. Portland Timbers | MLS Cup Final Match Preview

2015 MLS Cup

December 6, 2015 - 4:00 PM ET

ESPN, UniMás, TSN, RDS2, WatchESPN


It's a meeting of one of the oldest clubs in Major League Soccer history against one of the youngest when Columbus Crew SC meet the Portland Timbers in MLS Cup 2015 at MAPFRE Stadium. The MLS original Crew SC will be looking for their second MLS title in their second trip ever to the league championship game, after winning MLS Cup 2008; for the Timbers, which came into Major League Soccer in the 2011 season, it's their first trip to the championship game.

Columbus Crew SC are making their second appearance in the MLS title game, their first coming in MLS Cup 2008, when they defeated the New York Red Bulls 3-1 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Crew SC are looking to become the sixth club in MLS history to win multiple MLS Cups (D.C. United, Houston Dynamo, Sporting Kansas City, LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes)

The Portland Timbers are looking to be the 10th team in league history to win MLS Cup and would become the third expansion team ever (created from an expansion draft) to claim the league championship (Chicago Fire, 1998; Real Salt Lake, 2009).

The Timbers are the 14th club to reach the league's title tilt. Toronto FC (2007), Seattle Sounders FC (2009), Philadelphia Union (2010), Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2011), Montreal Impact (2012), Orlando City SC and New York City FC (both 2015) all have yet to play in the MLS championship game, while Miami Fusion FC, formed in 1998, did not reach the MLS Cup Final in their four-year existence, nor did Chivas USA in their 10 seasons (formed in 2005).

Columbus Crew SC vs. Portland Timbers | MLS Cup Final Match Preview -

Timbers forward Fanendo Adi (right) takes on Crew SC defender Michael Parkhurst (left). Photo by USA TODAY Sports

The teams met once during the regular season, also in Columbus -- a 2-1 Portland Timbers victory on Sept. 26. Fanendo Adi scored a pair of goals, in the 28th and 50th minutes, to lead the Timbers' victory; he netted a team-high 16 goals in the regular season. Kei Kamara scored the lone Crew SC goal in the 43rd minute, one of his 22 goals scored in the league campaign, tied for the most in MLS this season.

The win by the Timbers was their first in three trips all-time to Columbus, Crew SC having come away with 1-0 victories in the first two meetings in the Ohio state capital.

ALL-TIME RECORD: The all-time series has been split exactly down the middle since both teams have been in the league. In six matches all-time, each club has won two (with two draws), and each has scored six goals.

Crew SC scored 58 goals in the regular season in 34 matches, tied for the second-best attacking record in MLS, an average of 1.71 goals per game (even with Toronto FC, behind the New York Red Bulls 1.82 goals per game). Crew SC conceded 53 goals, an average of 1.56 goals per game, the 15th-best defensive mark in the league.

The Timbers scored 41 goals in the regular season in their 34 matches, tied for the 17th-best attacking record in MLS, an average of 1.21 goals per game. The Timbers allowed 39 goals over the campaign, an average of 1.15 goals per game, the third-best defensive record in MLS.

In home matches, Crew SC recorded a 9-4-4 mark in the regular season, tied for the 10th-best winning percentage (.647) on their home ground in the league. Crew SC won both of their home games in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs, defeating Montreal Impact (3-1) and New York Red Bulls (2-0).

On the road, the Timbers were 7-8-2 -- their .471 winning percentage in away games tied for second-best in MLS (only Vancouver Whitecaps FC were at .500). The Timbers did not lose either of their away matches in this year's MLS Cup Playoffs, winning at Vancouver (2-0) and gaining a draw at FC Dallas (2-2).

Columbus Crew SC vs. Portland Timbers | MLS Cup Final Match Preview -

Crew SC and Timbers will wear their primary kits.

Both teams will be wearing their primary home uniforms, continuing a trend from their previous appearances. Columbus Crew SC will be in their all-yellow first strip, which they also wore in their 2008 MLS Cup appearance. The Portland Timbers will be in their primary uniform of green shirts with the white and yellow chevron and white shorts. The teams wore the same uniforms in their Sept. 26 meeting in Columbus.

For the second time in MLS Cup history, two teams outside the Top 10 media markets in the country (per designated market area) will be contesting the league's championship match -- Columbus, Ohio is ranked No. 31, and Portland, Ore. is No. 24. The first was MLS Cup 2013, which featured Kansas City (ranked No. 31 at the time) and Salt Lake City (No. 33 at the time).

The Timbers are just the third team to begin in the Knockout Round and reach MLS Cup. The other two met in MLS Cup 2012, when both the LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo started in the opening round and reached the title game, won 3-1 by the Galaxy.


Jair Marrufo will be the MLS Cup referee for the second time, having also officiated over MLS Cup 2006 between the Houston Dynamo and New England Revolution. Named the MLS Referee of the Year in 2008, he has also been a finalist for the award each of the past two seasons. From El Paso, Texas, Marrufo has been an MLS referee since the 2002 season. He has also served as the referee for the 2011 and 2014 MLS All-Star games.

This season, Marrufo officiated 19 matches, calling an average of 22.2 fouls per match (the lowest average among the 25 referees to officiate MLS games, while issuing an average of 2.7 yellow cards (23rd out of 25). He sent off three players and whistled five penalties.

The assistant referees are Peter Manikowski and Corey Parker. It is the third appearance for Manikowski in MLS Cup, having also run the lines in the 2011 and 2014 finals. For Parker, named the Assistant Referee of the Year in 2015, it will be his first MLS Cup. The fourth official is Chris Penso.


Mapfre Stadium will be playing host to MLS Cup for a second time. In the stadium's inaugural year of 2001, as Columbus Crew Stadium, the San Jose Earthquakes defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 on a golden goal in overtime for the only other MLS title game appearance in the Ohio capital.

Columbus Crew SC vs. Portland Timbers | MLS Cup Final Match Preview -

Mapfre Stadium - Columbus, OH


For just the third time in MLS history, a pair of coaches making their MLS Cup debuts will be facing each other. The last came in MLS Cup 2010, when both FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman and Rapids manager Gary Smith guided their teams to the MLS Cup Final in their first appearance in the postseason. That was the first time two coaches making their playoffs debut took their teams to the MLS Cup Final (though of course it did happen in the inaugural season of 1996). The first time both coaches making their MLS Cup debuts faced each other in the final came in 1999, when Thomas Rongen of D.C. United faced Sigi Schmid and the Los Angeles Galaxy, a 2-0 United victory. 

It will also be just the second time two former MLS players have been the head coaches in MLS Cup. The first came in 2013, when Sporting KC's Peter Vermes guided his team to victory against Real Salt Lake, coached by Jason Kreis. Gregg Berhalter, who took the reins of Crew SC before the start of the 2014 season, played three seasons for the LA Galaxy (2009-11). Caleb Porter, who has been in charge of the Timbers since the 2013 campaign, played for the San Jose Earthquakes in 1999.

Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter is looking to become the third person to win MLS Cup both as a player and a head coach. Berhalter was a member of the LA Galaxy's MLS Cup 2011-winning side, in his third and final season as a player in the league. The first was Peter Nowak, who led D.C. United to victory in 2004, after captaining the Chicago Fire to victory in MLS Cup 1998. The second was Peter Vermes, who guided Sporting Kansas City to victory in MLS Cup 2013, after he was a member of the Kansas City Wizards who won MLS Cup 2000, playing the full match in central defense in the 1-0 win vs. the Chicago Fire at RFK Stadium. 

The winning head coach will be the sixth former MLS player to also win an MLS Cup as coach. The first was Frank Yallop (Tampa Bay 1996-98); he won two MLS Cups in charge of the San Jose Earthquakes (2001, 2003). Peter Nowak (Chicago 1998-2002) led D.C. United to victory in MLS Cup 2004, and Dominic Kinnear (Colorado 1996; San Jose 1997; Tampa Bay 1998-2000) guided the Houston Dynamo to back-to-back Cup victories in 2006 and 2007. Jason Kreis became the fourth, guiding Real Salt Lake to their MLS Cup 2009 title, then Peter Vermes performed the feat in 2013 with Sporting Kansas City.

This year will also mark the third consecutive year a former player will be on the losing end at MLS Cup -- the only three times that has happened. Before the 2013 final, every former player had won previously.


Columbus Crew SC have just one player with previous MLS Cup Final experience -- defender Michael Parkhurst, who played every minute of the New England Revolution's consecutive trips to the championship games 2005-07 (all defeats). Hector Jimenez was an unused substitute for the LA Galaxy in MLS Cup 2012.

Columbus Crew SC used just 12 different starters in the MLS Cup Playoffs this season. Ten different players started all four matches; defender Tyson Wahl started just one match, coming in for the suspended Gaston Sauro in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Championship. Crew SC used 17 different players in the postseason.

Crew SC evenly split their four matches in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs -- winning their two home matches (3-1 vs. Montreal; 2-0 vs. New York Red Bulls), and losing their two away matches (1-2 vs. Montreal; 0-1 vs. New York Red Bulls).

Kei Kamara scored three goals in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs, leading all players. Kamara was the only player in this year's postseason to score multiple goals in a game (netting twice vs. Montreal on Nov. 8).

Crew SC were shut out at the attacking end in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Championship, their first attacking shutout in any match since Sept. 6 (a 0-3 loss to FC Dallas). Crew SC were shut out seven times over the course of the 2015 league campaign, tied for second-fewest in MLS this season.

In all, six players who played at the University of Akron are featured on the rosters of the competing teams in MLS Cup. Crew SC feature Wil Trapp, Chad Barson and Ben Speas, while the Timbers have Darlington Nagbe, Ben Zemanski and Michael Nanchoff -- as well as head coach Caleb Porter, who coached the school for seven seasons and led it to the NCAA College Cup title in 2010. All six players grew up in the state of Ohio. Porter can join Bruce Arena (LA Galaxy, University of Virginia), Sigi Schmid (Columbus Crew, UCLA), and Steve Sampson (LA Galaxy, Santa Clara Univ.) as the only coaches to win an MLS Cup title and a NCAA Division I championship.

MLS Cup will also feature a pair of clubs who played very similar systems for much of the season -- each featuring a lone out-and-out striker with an attacking midfielder (both from Argentina, no less), with traditional wingers and a pair of defensive midfielders. Timbers boss Caleb Porter did change his scheme over the final couple months of the season, going with a three-pronged front and two attacking central midfielders in front of a lone holding man.

"They're a good team," Ethan Finlay said to American Soccer Now. "Adi is a handful up top, and obviously Nagbe controls the midfield. We're a team that likes to control the tempo through our midfield. They're the exact same, I believe. They kind of play with wingers, just like we do, with a single forward. Saying that, I think I like our matchups. For myself on the right side going against Villafana, I like that matchup. I like Kei against whether it be Ridgewell, Paparatto, or Borchers. On any given day, [Higuain] can be the best on the field. We'll need him to have a big game. I like how we match up against them, for sure."

Columbus Crew SC vs. Portland Timbers | MLS Cup Final Match Preview -


The Portland Timbers can count upon three players with previous experience in MLS Cups -- including a pair of Cup winners. Midfielder Will Johnson and defender Nat Borchers were both members of the Real Salt Lake team that won MLS Cup 2009 in a penalty shootout victory against the LA Galaxy; Borchers was also a member of the 2013 Real Salt Lake team that reached the final. Johnson started the 2009 final, playing the first half before he was forced from the field with an injury; Borchers played the full 120 minutes in both matches. Midfielder Jack Jewsbury was also a member of the Kansas City Wizards team that reached MLS Cup 2004 vs. D.C. United, starting the match and playing 66 minutes.

Fanendo Adi scored his second goal of the MLS Cup Playoffs in the second leg of the Western Conference Championship vs. FC Dallas, the only Timbers player with more than one goal during the postseason. Eight different players have scored goals for the Timbers during the playoffs (Adi, Dairon Asprilla, Rodney Wallace, Nat Borchers, Diego Chara, Lucas Melano, Liam Ridgewell, Maximiliano Urruti).

Diego Valeri recorded assists on both goals in the Western Conference Championship second leg, his first career two-assist game in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Valeri has three assists over his last two matches played (he missed the first leg vs. FC Dallas through suspension). Valeri is tied for the lead in assists in the 2015 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs with four, along with Mauro Diaz of FC Dallas. 

Dairon Asprilla collected his third assist of the postseason in the second leg vs. FC Dallas, and had a goal and two assists over both legs of the Western Conference Championship. Asprilla has a goal and three assists in five appearances in the postseason this year (three starts); he had a goal and two assists in 26 matches (10 as a starter) for the Timbers over the league campaign.

Fifteen different players started games in the MLS Cup Playoffs for the Timbers. Only five players started all five postseason matches for the Timbers -- defenders Nat Borchers, Alvas Powell and Jorge Villafana, midfielder Darlington Nagbe and forward Fanendo Adi. In all, 18 different players have seen time for the Timbers during the playoff run.

The Timbers did not lose a match in their run to MLS Cup 2015, winning two matches and drawing three others (winning one series in a penalty shootout). The Timbers have an eight-game undefeated streak alive over all competitions (5-0-3).

Five players -- midfielders Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, Rodney Wallace and Darlington Nagbe and backup goalkeeper Jake Gleeson -- have been with the Timbers since the start of their first MLS season in 2012. "I always feel in the programs I've been in, the clubs I've been in, I think it's always important to keep a piece of the past, always," head coach Caleb Porter said. "It's important to have guys who have been through the wars and suffered. I always believe that: You've got to have guys who appreciate that adversity and that journey. I think when you look at Jack and you look at Rodney and others, Chara, they have character."


Should MLS Cup be tied at the end of regulation time (90 minutes), a 30-minute extra-time session shall ensue and be played to its completion. If no team holds a lead after that time, the game shall be decided by the traditional "kicks from the penalty mark" tiebreaker.


LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: CLB 2 wins, 6 goals … POR 2 wins, 6 goals … Ties 2
at MAPFRE Stadium: CLB 2 wins, 3 goals … POR 1 win, 2 goals
Columbus Crew SC 1, Portland Timbers 2 (Sept. 26, MAPFRE Stadium)

  • Gregg Berhalter vs. POR … 0-1-1
  • Caleb Porter vs. CLB … 1-1-1


  • Regular season: 15-11-8, +5, 2nd in Eastern Conference
  • Conference Semifinals: Beat Montreal 4-3 after extra time
  • Conference Championship: Beat New York Red Bulls 2-1


  • Regular season: 15-11-8, +2, 3rd in Western Conference
  • Knockout Round: Tied Kansas City 2-2, won 7-6 on PKs
  • Conference Semifinals: Beat Vancouver 2-0
  • Conference Championship: Beat Dallas 5-3