The MLS Cup Final will be played in Portland for the first time in the Timbers history after Portland defeated Real Salt Lake 2-0 at Providence Park to win the Western Conference. Saturday evening was the third time a Western Conference Final has been played at Providence Park but many called tonight the most important home game in Timbers history considering it was a one-off elimination game and the chance to host MLS Cup presented itself.
Portland entered tonight beating Colorado 1-0 on Thanksgiving day and taking down Minnesota 3-1 in the first round. RSL, who just snuck into the playoffs beat #2 seed Seattle in the first round and left Kansas City last weekend with a last-second victory to make it to the Western Conference Final.
Real Salt Lake and Portland met three times in the regular season with Portland winning all three affairs by a combined score of 12-4, the most one MLS side scored against another this season. Three straight victories became four in rainy Portland and Real Salt Lake’s Cinderella-like playoff run was slammed closed.
When these two sides met in the Western Conference Final in 2013, RSL was far superior but Portland didn’t let the result from eight years ago repeat, looking the better side from the offset. Portland was without two starting forwards, Dairon Asprilla to suspension and Sebastian Blanco to injury, but the attack was able to manifest goals just five minutes into the game.
Mora was in the right place and the right time to guide the ball in, it was his 12th goal of the MLS season and his first since September 25th, when they faced RSL last. Portland continued to be the aggressors for the opening half and went to halftime with confidence considering they are 9-2-1 this season when leading.
The second half produced more chances for both sides but the seventh-seeded RSL dropped further into misery when Santiago Moreno scored his first MLS goal in the 61st minute.
Moreno took the duties of taking Blanco’s starting role and the mid-season signing looked very Blanco-esc scoring from nearly 30-yards out to make it 2-0.
The postseason run truly came to end for RSL when Aaron Herrera picked up a second yellow in the 79th minute to put RSL down a man while still being down two. Timbers army was magnificent tonight and let their voices be heard, luckily for them, they’ll get one more game at home – MLS Cup.
MLS Cup will be next Saturday, December 11th at Providence Park. With Portland’s place cemented in their third MLS-Cup Final, they must wait for tomorrow’s Eastern Conference final to see if they face NYCFC or Philadelphia next week.