Timbers seek breakthrough against SKC in second leg
Field Level Mediaon
The scenarios for the second leg of the MLS Western Conference final between Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers are fairly simple.
After a scoreless draw in the series opener in Portland, the winner of Thursday night's game in Kansas City will advance to MLS Cup.
Should there be another 0-0 tie, the teams will head to overtime. Should the Timbers score in a tie, they'll advance on the basis of away goals.
"That's what this next game winds up being: It's truly a final," Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. "They're going to be really good, and we're going to try to be really good, and everybody's going to be going after it. It's going to be one of those games where it's probably going to be down to the wire."
SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia has shut out the Timbers in all three games between the teams this season, but was forced to make six saves in the first leg to keep a clean sheet. Conversely, Portland goalie Jeff Attinella made just one save Sunday.
Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese denied the scoreless streak against Sporting is looming over his team.
"I don't see it as that kind of pressure. We have to go there and try to get a win," Savarese said. "We have to go there with the mentality that it's one game, like it is in the regular season, and we have to go there to try and get a win."
The fifth-seeded Timbers have fared well on the road so far in the playoffs. They won 2-1 at FC Dallas in the knockout round, then defeated Cascadia Cup rival Seattle in penalty kicks on the Sounders' home field.
Top-seeded Sporting KC can draw on their 10-2-5 record at home in the regular season, including a 3-0 victory against the Timbers on Aug. 18.
SKC's Diego Rubio scored twice in the first half of that game but missed the first leg of the conference final while serving a suspension for yellow-card accumulation. Rubio, who ranked third on the team with eight regular-season goals, is eligible to return Thursday.
Timbers defender Larrys Mabiala suffered a twisted ankle early in Sunday's match and had be replaced by Bill Poni Tuiloma in the 18th minute. Savarese said Mabiala is questionable for the second leg.
"I've been very proud because anybody that steps on the field does the job, and Bill did that," Savarese said. "It's very difficult to come in, having to replace a guy like Mabiala, coming in and I thought he did with the right mentality, did everything the right way."