Real Salt Lake at Portland Timbers
Kickoff: 6 p.m. Sunday at Jeld-Wen Field.
TV/radio: ESPN (Ch. 35/735) / AM 750.
Conference finals: This is the second of a two-game, aggregate-goals playoff. Salt Lake won 4-2 at home on Nov. 10, so Portland must win by at least two goals to extend its season. If Portland wins by two goals over 90 minutes to tie the aggregate score, an extra 30-minute match will be played (no golden goal). If the score is tied after that extra 30 minutes, a penalty-kick tiebreaker will decide the winner.
MLS Cup: The Western Conference champion will visit Sporting Kansas City on Dec. 7 for the MLS Cup final. Sporting Kansas City rallied to beat Houston on Saturday, 2-1, to win the Eastern Conference final.First leg recap: After Will Johnson’s free kick gave the Timbers a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute, RSL turned up the heat. Salt Lake scored twice from corner kicks and twice from counter-attack opportunities to build a 4-1 lead. Frederic Piquionne’s header seconds from the final whistle made a comeback in Leg 2 more realistic for Portland.
How they reached the conference finals: The Timbers beat Seattle 2-1 and 3-2 for a 5-3 aggregate score win in their first playoff series. Real Salt Lake beat Los Angeles 2-1, losing the first leg 1-0 on the road, tying and winning it in the home leg with goals from Sebastian Velasquez and defender Chris Schuler.
Timbers confident: Despite the two-goal deficit, the Timbers have projected confidence about the opportunity in front of them. Portland finished on top of the Western Conference in the regular season largely because the Timbers lost once in 17 home matches — to Montreal when the season was a week old. The Timbers outscored opponents by 18 goals at home this season. They scored two or more goals at home eight times and won by at least two goals four times at home. The Timbers’ seven goals in three playoff games this season lead all playoff teams. Midfielder Diego Valeri and defender Pa Modou Ka are both expected to play after being limited some in training because of injuries. After breaks of more than 10 days this season, the Timbers have two ties (at Colorado and at Chicago) and one loss (at Columbus).
Real Salt Lake take: RSL has more than the two-goal lead going for it. RSL has six wins, three draws and one loss all time against the Timbers. And Portland’s lone win was the first meeting between the clubs in 2011. Last season, RSL took a 3-0 lead to Seattle in a playoff series and barely held on to win 3-2. This is the fourth conference championship series for RSL since 2008. RSL won MLS Cup in 2009.
Alvaro Saborio who has seven goals in six games against the Timbers, did not make the trip to Portland because of a hip flexor injury that also kept him out of the first game of the series. Defender Chris Wingert, who suffered a rib fracture in the first game, is listed as out.
In three previous situations where it had 11 or more days between matches, RSL had a tie (the 0-0 draw at Portland) and two losses (at Seattle, at Los Angeles).