The MLS conference finals reach their conclusion tonight, and thankfully, SKC fan, Stacy Fulk, and MLS Female’s Araceli Villanueva have helped preview the clash between Sporting Kansas City and Portland Timbers at Children’s Mercy Park.
While both teams would have liked to have a goal going into the final leg, especially Kansas City when road goals count as the first tie-break, Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers both feel like they are in a good position to move on to claim a spot in the upcoming MLS Cup match against either Atlanta United or the New York Red Bulls.
Peter Vermes and his Kansas City team will feel a good bit of confidence coming back home to play in their stadium, Children’s Mercy Park. Sporting have only one loss this season at home, the very first match of the season against NYCFC in March. The atmosphere in Children’s Mercy Park is always great and that will be no different come Thursday. The players have commented several times this season that the fan base really help them stay motivated and give them the extra boost of energy needed to finish a match and they just might need it again to overcome the Timbers.
Sporting will look to strike first and fast and will be grateful to have Diego Rubio available after serving a one-game suspension on Sunday. Rubio was suspended due to yellow card suspension. He had a total of eight regular season goals as well as one in both legs of the Conference semi-finals against Real Salt Lake.
With a certain Diego Valeri playing an influential attacking role for the Timbers, leg two of the Western Conference Final could potentially turn into the “Battle of the Diego’s”:
“Diego [Rubio] has been very important to the team in all kinds of scenarios. He’s been ready for all of them. So he’ll definitely play a role in this game. What that is? I’m not sure yet. But he’s had a huge impact on results and on his teammates, because I have no doubt in my mind they have confidence in him when he’s on the field,” said Manager Peter Vermes.
Portland is a good road team and they are also feeling quite confident coming into Thursday nights match up. The Timbers have won five road matches this season including a win against FC Dallas and while not winning the match in Seattle in the MLS Conference semi-finals they did advance via a penalty shoot-out against the Sounders. The Timbers are going to be looking to score a goal and will use Diego Valeri (10 regular seasons goals and 12 assists) and Sebastian Blanco (10 regular season goals and 11 assists) to try to break through the Sporting Kansas City defence of Matt Besler, Ike Opara and Tim Melia.
Matt Besler spoke during the press conference earlier in the week and stated that the situation is simple for SKC:
“The situation for us is simple, win the game. If we win the game we advance to MLS Cup. That’s our goal, that’s what we’re trying to do. If that means winning 1-0, or 4-3, I don’t know what the game is going to look like. We have to be ready for anything, but we’re going to have to do what it takes to win the game.”
Another place that will need to be watched is in the midfield. Ilie Sanchez has been called the “linch pin” of Sporting Kansas City. Their offence works best when he gets touches. When he doesn’t, they often look out of control and have difficulty keeping possession. The Timbers did a good job of limiting his touches in the first leg of the Conference Final with Diego Valeri and Diego Chara keeping him off of the ball. Sporting will need to find a way to get him more involved in the second leg to have a more Sporting-like attack.
With all to play for on Thursday and yellow card accumulations out the window it looks to be a hard fought, exciting and chippy kind of match. Both teams will be looking to score and that Sporting Kansas City fans will be amped up and ready to go on a cold late November night. Kansas City has to win, Portland has to score and both teams will be willing to do whatever it takes to advance to that coveted MLS Cup match on December 8. I definitely wouldn’t miss this one!
STACY’S PREDICTION: I think that having Diego Rubio available and the crowd at Children’s Mercy Park will be just what Sporting Kansas City will need to advance to MLS Cup with a 2-1 victory over Portland.
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ARACELI’S PREDICTION: I predict the final score will be 2-1 with Sporting KC advancing to the MLS Cup.
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