ExLink - 11/25/18 - PORvSKC

Portland Timbers vs. Sporting Kansas City
Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs — Conference Championship, First Leg
Providence Park — Portland
November 25 — 7:30 pm ET
WATCH: FS1, TSN2, TVAS, FOX Deportes

The Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City will take the first step towards deciding decide how the West is won – and who goes to the 2018 MLS Cup – with the first leg of the Conference Championship taking place at Providence Park on Sunday.

The Timbers reached the Western Conference Championship by ousting Cascadia rival Seattle Sounders on penalties, while Sporting Kansas City survived a scare to knock off Real Salt Lake, 5-3, on aggregate.

Sporting Kansas City didn’t concede once in two regular-season meetings, winning 3-0 at Children’s Mercy Park with Diego Rubio scoring a first-half brace and Johnny Russell providing the late knockout punch.

The teams, who played to a 0-0 draw at Providence Park in June, have met once before in the postseason — in the 2015 Knockout Round — with the Timbers prevailing in an epic penalty kick shootout after the teams played to a 2-2 draw.

Portland Timbers

After a 2-1 win at home in the opening leg, the Timbers went to CenturyLink Field and advanced 4-2 on penalties after a 3-2 win by the Sounders leveled the aggregate at 4-4.

Ten minutes after Raul Ruidiaz put Seattle in front, Sebastian Blanco scored what appeared to be the clinching goal in the 78th minute, but Ruidiaz’s stoppage-time strike forced a wild extra time, which saw Nico Lodeiro cancel out a Dairon Asprilla strike to force penalty kicks.

Asprilla wasn’t done, though, netting the clinching penalty kick to extend the Timbers season.

“More than what I’m feeling is how exciting the game was for everybody that came to watch. I felt it didn’t disappoint. Seattle and Portland brought the rivalry to this match and it was incredible,” Giovanni Savarese said after the game. “There were moments when they scored that it looked like it was going to be difficult for us. It went back and forth, back and forth, all the way to PKs. I think it delivered a very good match.”

  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended after next caution: D - Liam Ridgewell, M - Diego Chara, M - Andres Flores, F - Diego Valeri
  • International duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: D - Roy Miller (right thigh injury), GK - Jake Gleeson (bilateral tibial stress fracture); QUESTIONABLE: M - David Guzman (thigh, head injuries), F - Samuel Armenteros (thigh injury)

Projected Starting XI
(4-4-2, right to left)
GK: Jeff Attinella — Alvas Powell, Larrys Mabiala, Liam Ridgewell, Jorge Villafana — Andy Polo, Andres Flores, Diego Chara, Sebastian Blanco — Diego Valeri, Jeremy Ebobisse

  • Notes: Diego Valeri has created 10 chances in postseason play this year, seven coming from open play. No other player has more than six chances created in the MLS Cup Playoffs. … Portland has won two of their last three home games in the playoffs (1L). The last time Portland played Sporting Kansas City at home in the postseason, it ended as a 2-2 draw that the Timbers won 7-6 on penalties in 2015.

Sporting Kansas City

Daniel Salloi’s goal deep into stoppage time calmed nerves and ensured SKC advanced to the Conference Championship following a 4-2 win at Children’s Mercy Park after the teams played to a 1-1 draw at Rio Tinto Stadium in the opening leg.

Sporting KC came out flying and Rubio and Salloi gave the hosts a 2-0 lead inside the opening 20 minutes. After Sebastian Saucedo pulled RSL to within a goal, Ilie made it 3-1 seven minutes later. A goal by Damir Kreilach in the 72nd minute made things very interesting, but Salloi ended the drama with his second goal.

“I told the guys at halftime that we were going to have to sacrifice our bodies in the second half,” Peter Vermes said after the game. “It was going to be really, really difficult with everything they were going to throw at us in the second half. We did it. What an unbelievable turn of events there at the last minute. Daniel has a heads up play and great finish. A great finish to the game.”

  • Suspended: F - Diego Rubio
  • Suspended after next caution: M - Roger Espinoza
  • International duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: D - Jimmy Medranda (knee surgery), M - Cristian Lobato (quad injury)

Projected Starting XI
(4-3-3, right to left)
GK: Tim Melia — Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic — Roger Espinoza, Ilie Sanchez, Felipe Gutierrez — Johnny Russell, Khiry Shelton, Daniel Salloi

  • Notes: Russell and Rubio scored 10 goals in the regular season for Sporting Kansas City, just the second Sporting teammates to score 10+ goals in a season since 2007 (Dom Dwyer, Krisztián Németh and Benny Feilhaber all did in 2015). … Since winning their first road playoff game in 2011, Sporting Kansas City has gone winless in their last eight (4L-4D). The team has scored just five goals in those eight games.

All-Time Series (Regular Season)


Referee: Robert Sibiga
Assistant Referees: CJ Morgante, Corey Rockwell
4th Official: Ted Unkel
VAR: Edvin Jurisevic