• WHO: Real Salt Lake at Portland Timbers
By CHARLES GOOCH
The Kansas City Star
• WHAT: Game two of the MLS Western Conference final. It’s the final leg of the aggregate series.
• WHEN/WHERE: 8 p.m. Sunday at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Ore.
• TV: ESPN
• FIRST LEG: Salt Lake 4, Portland 2. The Timbers were outclassed and outmatched for 90 minutes in Salt Lake. However, a goal by Frederic Piquionne four minutes into stoppage time gives Portland a slim lifeline.
• ABOUT SALT LAKE (16-10-8): In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Jason Kreis, he’s led the league’s best attacking team to the cusp of an MLS Cup appearance. With veterans Kyle Beckerman, Nat Borchers and Nick Rimando in goal, Salt Lake isn’t likely to let a two-goal lead slip away. The RSL attackers — led by Javier Morales and youngster Luis Gil and Sebastian Velasquez — diced through Portland in the first match and are a threat to do it again.
• ABOUT PORTLAND (14-5-15): Caleb Porter and the Timbers have been a pressing and attacking team all year. Nothing changed in the first leg, but the make-shift defense was exposed by Salt Lake’s pace and creativity. The Timbers Army is one of the best home crowds in all of Major League Soccer and Portland has lost just once (in March) at home.
• BOTTOM LINE: Portland needs goals and its potent attack, featuring Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe and Ryan Johnson, is more than capable of providing them. The defense, however, is more than capable of allowing Salt Lake to score as well.
• PREDICTION: Portland 2-1 (Salt Lake 5-4 on aggregate)
| Charles Gooch, firstname.lastname@example.org