Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas | MLS Cup Playoffs Match Preview
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. FC DALLAS
Providence Park, Portland, Oregon
November 22, 2015 (Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs, Conference Championship Leg 1)
7:30 pm ET (FS1, FOX Deportes in US; TSN5 in Canada)
The Western Conference Championship kicks off when the third-seeded Portland Timbers play host to top-seed FC Dallas in the first leg of their two-game series at Providence Park. The Timbers have reached the West final for the second time in the last three seasons, after eliminating Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2-0 on aggregate in the conference semifinals, following a 2-0 second-leg win at BC Place. FC Dallas are in the conference championship for the first time since 2010 -- when they made their lone appearance in MLS Cup -- after a dramatic penalty shootout win against Seattle Sounders FC, taking the second leg 2-1 to tie the series 3-3 on aggregate before advancing through the penalty kick decider.
REFEREE: Ted Unkel.
AR1 (bench): Frank Anderson; AR2 (opposite): Ian Anderson; 4th: Ricardo Salazar
SUSPENDED: POR: Diego Valeri (caution accumulation; through Nov. 22); Rodney Wallace (caution accumulation; through Nov. 22)
WARNINGS (suspended next yellow card): POR: Liam Ridgewell, George Fochive. Lucas Melano ... DAL: Mauro Diaz; Blas Perez
LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: POR 5 wins, 18 GF ... DAL 4 wins, 24 GF ... Ties 4
2015 HEAD-TO-HEAD: POR 1 wins, 4 goals; DAL 1 win, 5 goals; Ties 0
AT PROVIDENCE PARK:
4/4: POR 3, DAL 1 (Borchers 23; Urruti 62; Chara 87 -- Akindele 29)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: First meeting.
- The Timbers advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals for the second time in the last three years with a second successive shutout -- their first two clean sheets in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
- "I think our experience in the playoffs helped us in this series. We've already won a playoff series versus Seattle [in] 2013. I think this is now our fourth win in the playoffs. The maturity we showed, the professionalism we showed in managing this leg, and both legs, I thought was visible. Obviously Dallas is a good team, but we've been beating good teams," said Timbers head coach Caleb Porter.
- Fanendo Adi scored his first career goal in the MLS Cup Playoffs, also adding an assist. Adi ended the league campaign with six goals in his last five matches.
- "It's just understanding. We've trained and played a lot with these guys. You understand their movement and your movement as well. It's just an understanding and it worked very well for us," Adi said.
- The Timbers were forced into a major change at the three-quarter mark of the second leg when Jorge Villafana was forced off through injury, replaced by Norberto Paparatto.
- "They needed two goals, so they started just throwing numbers forward and putting guys in up top so it made sense to put Paparatto in and push Liam over to left back, he can sit in and we can play almost with three central defenders. So it made sense at that stage in the game," said Porter.
- Diego Chara scored his first career MLS Cup Playoffs goal, his postseason game with a goal or an assist since the first of his MLS career, in 2013 vs. Seattle.
- Diego Valeri added an assist, his second in three games in the MLS Cup Playoffs this season. But Valeri will be ruled out of the first leg of the West final -- along with winger Rodney Wallace -- after both received their second yellow cards of the postseason.
- "This team, they play for each other, they're very hungry, and the last six games weíre unbeaten. The last six games we've been in playoff mode, we've been in massive pressure. For this group to play the football they're playing, under massive pressure, is a really good sign. Four teams left, and three games to go, and we have two teams in our way," Porter said.
- FC Dallas have reached the Western Conference Championship for a fourth time in club history, the first since 2010, in surviving a penalty shootout for a first time in three tries.
- "[This] is a very good example of what we have done during the year. That was magical and well-deserved. That's what these guys have. They have character and I never doubted for a moment they would work hard to get this game," said FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja.
- Substitute Walker Zimmerman was the first hero, sending the match into extra time with his first career MLS Cup Playoffs goal in second-half stoppage time.
- "We practiced scenarios all week. I knew the game was in the last few minutes and the subs would be Blas [Perez], Tesho [Akindele] and myself. We practiced it and in the 75th minute, Tesho and I knew our roles and we knew what was expected of us," Zimmerman said.
- Homegrown Player Jesse Gonzalez then saved two penalty kicks in the post-match decider, in his second career playoff appearance.
- "This is a good example of the program that we have in the club. Our Academy guys are making us very proud. ... I'm very proud of Jesse. But I always like to talk about the unit and that's what we are," said Pareja. Said Akindele: "When you look at him in the goal and heís touching the [crossbar] you can barely see the goal behind him. He's so big. We all had faith that he will save one or two we just had to do our part."
- Akindele netted a second career goal in the MLS Cup Playoffs, his first coming in his first appearance, in last year's Knockout Round match vs. Vancouver.
- "When I was subbing on, I was thinking there was no way we were going to overtime. Either we are going to score a goal right here or it's just going to end 0-0. When we scored, I thought we were going to win. They scored and I was like this is the worst thing in the world. Then we scored again and it's the best thing in the world," said Akindele.
- FC Dallas extended their home undefeated streak to three games in the MLS Cup Playoffs. They were 13-2-2 at Toyota Stadium in league play in 2015, the best record in the league.
- "The difference was, because of a good season, we put ourselves in a spot where we're playing at home," Zimmerman said. "That home-field advantage was pretty huge, with all the fans going pretty crazy."
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