Caleb Porter figures everyone is tired of talking about the second game in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference finals.
“I think we can all agree that it’s to some extent like ‘Groundhog Day’ talking about this game every day for the last 12 days,” the Portland Timbers coach said.
There was some news, though, during a MLS media teleconference held Friday to promote Sunday’s match at Jeld-Wen Field, a game the Timbers must win by two or more goals to extend their season.
Real Salt Lake won 4-2 on Nov. 10. The team with the most total goals in that game and Sunday’s will advance to the MLS Cup final against the winner of Saturday’s match between Sporting Kansas City and Houston.
Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said that forward Alvaro Saborio will not be available for Sunday’s match. The Costa Rican forward, who suffered a hip flexor injury on Nov. 7 against Los Angeles, is RSL’s top scorer with 12 goals this season. He missed the first game of this series. Saborio has thrived against the Timbers, scoring seven times in six career games against Portland.
The injury news sounded more encouraging for the Timbers. Porter said that midfielder Diego Valeri, who has been playing through an adductor injury for more than two months, trained fully on Wednesday and Friday.
“(Friday) he looked as good as he’s looked in months,” Porter said. “We’re optimistic that he will be effective in this game like he has been in many of the games down the stretch, even managing this injury.”
Porter noted that in certain games the injury didn’t bother Valeri much — such as the Timbers clincher against Seattle on Nov. 7. Other times, including the Nov. 10 match at Real Salt Lake in which Valeri played only 52 minutes, the injury limited him.
A healthy Valeri certainly would help Portland’s chances of overcoming the two-goal deficit and reaching the MLS Cup championship match.
The Argentine midfielder had 10 goals and a league-best 13 assists in the regular season, and added a terrific goal in the 3-2 win over Seattle that advanced the Timbers to the Western Conference finals.
After a stretch of three playoff games in eight days, the chance to rest was the one positive from the two-week break between conference final games, an intermission forced by international competition.
Portland’s Jack Jewsbury said the strange schedule has not been talked about much among the team.
“Guys realized beforehand what the task was,” Jewsbury said. “You can look at it a couple of different ways. In one sense, it gives guys a bit of a breather to rest their legs a little bit. On the other hand we’re biting at the bit to get back on the field and play.”