FC Dallas vs Portland Timbers | MLS Cup Playoffs Match Preview
FC DALLAS vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS
Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
November 29, 2015
Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs, Western Conference Championship Leg 2
5 pm ET (ESPN, WatchESPN, ESPN Deportes in US, TSN2 in Canada)
The Portland Timbers are within 90 minutes of their first MLS Cup appearance following last Sunday’s 3-1 win over FC Dallas. Backed by a capacity crowd under the floodlights at Providence Park, the Timbers received goals from two unlikely sources – defenders Liam Ridgewell and Nat Borchers. Ridgewell potted his first goal of 2015 in the 23rd minute (watch here) before Borchers scored his first playoff goal in 12 years – the longest stretch between playoff goals in MLS history – in stoppage time to give Portland a critical insurance goal (watch here). Dairon Asprilla stole the show with an unbelievable strike from 30 yards out (watch here) that may top Juan Agudelo’s bicycle kick as the goal of the playoffs. Portland didn’t miss a beat without midfielders Diego Valeri and Rodney Wallace, both of whom missed Sunday’s match due to yellow-card suspension but will be available for selection this weekend. With that duo back in the fold, the Timbers could be Cup Bound & Down come Sunday night.
Although FC Dallas return to Frisco facing a two-goal deficit, the team’s resilient performance in the conference semifinal shows they cannot be counted out yet. Dallas have not lost at Toyota Stadium since Aug. 15 and finished the regular season with an MLS-best 13 home wins. However, the Timbers have not lost a road match since Aug. 30 and finished the regular season tied for an MLS-best seven road wins. Dallas will have to channel their youth and come out swinging in Sunday’s second leg. Mauro Díaz submitted another masterful performance in the Leg 1 loss (watch assist; watch pass), and Dallas will lean on him, Fabián Castillo and goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez to spearhead a comeback. Dallas, like the New York Red Bulls, will look to become the first MLS team to overcome a two-goal deficit entering a second leg since the Kansas City Wizards in 2004. Unlike the Red Bulls, Dallas enter the second leg with an away goal.
REFEREE: Ismail Elfath.
AR1 (bench): Sean Hurd; AR2 (opposite): Joe Fletcher; 4th: Mark Geiger
WARNINGS (suspended next yellow card): POR: Liam Ridgewell,
George Fochive. Lucas Melano, Diego Chara, Jorge Villafana ... DAL: Mauro Diaz; Blas Perez, Kellyn Acosta
LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: DAL 4 wins, 24 GF ... POR 5 wins, 18 GF ... Ties 4
2015 HEAD-TO-HEAD: DAL 1 win, 5 goals … POR 1 win, 4 goals … Ties 0
AT TOYOTA STADIUM:
4/4: DAL 4, POR 1 (Barrios 12, 22; Acosta 69; Diaz 87 -- Adi 93+)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: DAL 0 wins, 1 goal … POR 1 win, 3 goals … Ties 0
- FC Dallas return home for the second leg needing to overturn a two-goal deficit after the 3-1 first-leg defeat -- something which has been done only twice in a two-leg tie in MLS history (last: 2004, KC v SJ). “I know this group can do it. We have the talent and the energy and the character to do it. Sometimes we put ourselves in a spot that aren’t necessary but that’s the game. Once again this is the team that I trust and we’ll do it. We’ll do it in Frisco,” said FCD head coach Oscar Pareja.
- FCD have won their six matches in all competitions at Toyota Stadium, their last home loss coming Aug. 15 to LA (1-2). FCD had the best home record in the regular season (13-2-2). “I think going home now, knowing we need two goals we’re still going to be patient, still going to wait for our chances, wait for our time, and capitalize when those chances come. They’re obviously a great counterattacking team so we’ll have to be careful on keeping them out of our box but we feel confident that we can take them,” said Ryan Hollingshead.
- The three goals conceded by FC Dallas were the most in any match since a 3-2 loss at the LA Galaxy on Sept. 27. FCD had gone 5-1-1 in all competitions since. “I don’t think that third goal is too much of an issue. We’d be pushing for more than just a 1-0 win at home anyway. We just need to go settle things at home. We feel confident. We feel like it’s still in our hands,” said Hollingshead. ... Making his eighth consecutive start over all competitions, David Texeira scored his first career MLS Cup Playoffs goal for the potentially vital away goal. “This is like something similar that happened with Seattle in the last game. This is a final. Every single detail can make the difference; we made a few mistakes but we can correct them and make them better on the weekend,” Texeira said.
- FC Dallas conceded two goals from corner kicks in the defeat in Portland; they've conceded three goals out of six in the postseason from corners, after allowing five on corners for the entire league season. “They capitalized on their set pieces and we didn’t. We didn’t do well defending them and gave up too many goals. Luckily we got that away goal so that helps us in the long run but we have our work cut out for us, for sure,” said Hollingshead.
- The Timbers won their second consecutive match and remained undefeated over the MLS Cup Playoffs (2-0-2), now unbeaten in their last seven matches in all competitions. “A win, any way you would have hashed it out, would have been good, but to win by a two-goal margin puts us in a good spot. We know how explosive and dangerous Dallas is and what they are capable of ... we need to be very mature in how we manage this next game tactically and mentally,” said Timbers head coach Caleb Porter. “But I thought our guys showed a lot of composure after giving up the goal. We’ve made a lot of progress since 2013.”
- The FC Dallas goal was the first conceded by the Timbers since their first playoff match, ending a shutout streak of 176 minutes (second-longest in the playoffs this year).
- With Diego Valeri and Rodney Wallace suspended, Jack Jewsbury came into a holding midfield role as Porter returned to a 4-2-3-1 scheme for the first time in about two months. “[Jewsbury and Diego Chara] were terrific,” said center back Liam Ridgewell. “I think they stopped every attack they had and nullified what they did. We’ve been playing a one [defensive midfielder], then back to two, so I think everyone that’s been in there has done a job, and Jack and Chara were brilliant.”
- Darlington Nagbe filled the attacking central midfield spot, and Lucas Melano and Dairon Asprilla were in the wide attacking roles. “A part of the plan was predicated on who we had healthy but we wanted to set our team up in a way where we had good protection from our holding mids that’s why we went with Jack and Chara, two holding mids, because we felt we needed that extra cover when the ball got wide to Castillo and Barrios. And also because we knew we had Asprilla and Melano having that protection for them allowed them to play a little bit more aggressively like a true three front. So we had those guys play higher and get in 1-v-1 battles,” said Porter.
- Asprilla scored his first career postseason goal, and has a goal and two assists in the playoffs.
- The Timbers netted a pair of goals from corner kicks; over the length of the regular season, they scored just three goals from corners (tied for third-fewest in the league). “This time of year a lot of times results come down to set pieces. We worked a lot on set pieces. We had seen some things on film, some areas we thought we could exploit. I thought our execution on set pieces was tremendous,” Porter said.
- New formation and team depth prove key in Portland's Leg 1 win vs. FC Dallas
- After week-long push for "pragmatism," Porter unleashes the Timbers' attack in Leg 1
- Dallas confident they'll overcome Leg 1 deficit vs. Timbers: "We'll do it in Frisco"
- Set piece defense potentially dooming for FC Dallas after Leg 1 struggles
- Armchair Analyst: Master plans, dangerous leads and set pieces in the Conference Championships
- ExtraTime Radio: Can FCD turn tables vs. Timbers? | Crew SC catch Red Bulls napping
- Interesting statistical nuggets from Leg 1 of the Conference Championship series'
- MLS Cup Playoffs providing business boost for four remaining teams