Voices: Greg Seltzer

Portland Timbers Player Ratings: Santiago Moreno, Cristhian Paredes star in WCF win

The Portland Timbers are going to their third MLS Cup in seven years thanks to a firmly-worked 2-0 victory over Western Conference Final guests Real Salt Lake on Saturday.

The hosts rode an early Felipe Mora strike well, strictly denying the Royals playmakers from seeing the ball for most of the afternoon. Eventually, surprise star Santiago Moreno capped a comprehensive performance with an insurance golazo and the Timbers backed this win smoothly into the Providence Park garage.

One fine save and a couple other comfy stops pretty much sums up the night for Portland's netminder, who is now in line for his second MLS Cup start.

The Timbers right back had his moments jumping into attack, such as the entry ball that led to their opener. Van Rankin was a lot more iffy over the rest of the field, but RSL never took advantage of some bad decisions with the ball and loose coverage of potential crossers.

The veteran defender may as well have some shiny signs on his shirt and one of those nifty caps, because he was the captain of the skies in this one. Mabiala dominated in the air and calmly moved the ball out of the back when necessary.

The big Croatian was less busy than Mabiala, but no more troubled than his partner. In addition to handling matters in defense, Zuparic also could have had an assist from a pinpoint flick-on from a restart.

There was a hiccup here and there, but Portland's left back got a lot of two-way work done throughout the game. Nothing got through Bravo and he ate up a lot of ground on the dribble to break impending pressure.

The wily vet essentially fire-proofed Zone 14 by denying the ball to Real Salt Lake's key attackers in anything resembling dangerous territory up the gut. Chara did a few other things pushing the ball forward, but the genius of his outing was how Real Salt Lake were never even allowed to pound a stake, let alone set up camp in the final third.

One of the league's underrated midfielders showed all the ways he can affect proceedings. Paredes was combative and larcenous against the ball, and progressive with it. Good enough for co-Man of the Match in my book.

Though his combination play helped set up Mora's fast opener, it was a somewhat quiet night offensively for the younger Chara. On the other hand, his possession work and backtracking were exemplary.

This was about as proactive as I've ever seen Loria. He was bullish in possession challenges, constantly darting into different spaces to receive and decisively direct once he got the ball. The only minor demerit came from his corner-kick serves all being too low.

A star is born, perhaps? For a U22 Initiative signing coming into the game with all of three MLS starts, the 21-year-old sure looked comfortable grabbing the spotlight. Moreno worked hard in his end and then motored the ball out of the back to ignite the transition game. He looked dangerous up the wing, as well, but didn't get his reward until conjuring a memorable goal just past the hour.

The goal, which was basically a shrewd block of a weak clearance, was arguably the least of Mora's contributions. His steady hold-up play allowed the Timbers to keep the field tilted for the first hour.

Giovanni Savarese
Head coach

I don't wish to over-praise the boss here, because it's those midfielders and wingers that did the work to shut down RSL's chance creation factory. Still, you have to hand it to Savarese for once again correctly identifying and drilling the pressure points of a knockout situation. It doesn't happen often, but this probably was very much an "as he drew it up" victory.


The striker sub would probably like to have another crack at the set-piece chance that fell a bit awkwardly for him.

A solid late support shift from the mayor of Portland.

A mere cameo.

Another short stint as the clock wound down.