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Sporting KC vs. Portland Timbers | 2018 Conference Championship Preview

Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers
Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs — Conference Championship, Second Leg
Children’s Mercy Park — Kansas City
November 29 — 9:30 pm ET
WATCH: ESPN, TSN2, TVAS2, ESPN Deportes

It is all to play for at Children’s Mercy Park for the second leg of the Western Conference Championship after the Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City played to a 0-0 draw at Providence Park on Sunday.

Heading back home, where they were 10-2-5 during the regular season, Sporting KC will be confident of securing a first trip to MLS Cup since winning the title in 2013, while the Timbers know an away goal can go a long way toward their first MLS Cup appearance since lifting the silverware in 2015.

In a fiercely competitive opening leg, both teams laid claim to solid chances to score the lone goal, with Jorge Villafana firing off the post in the first half. David Guzman slipped the ball past Tim Melia on a set piece in the 70th minute, but the goal was called back following Video Review when it was ruled Liam Ridgewell was in an offside position.

SKC’s best opportunities were by Johnny Russell, who fired over the crossbar early in the second half and Daniel Salloi, whose stoppage-time attempt inside the box was blocked by Ridgewell.

Sporting Kansas City

Of course, it wasn’t a perfect result for Sporting, especially since they didn’t score an away goal, but they have the advantage of the "Blue Hell" on Thursday and the knowledge that a home win sends them back to the MLS Cup.

“It’s a final at home. You know you’ve got to win,” Peter Vermes said. “But at the end of the day, whether it’s here or there, it’s a final now for both teams and we have to be very disciplined going back, but it’s a good result going back home. Obviously, we would have preferred to win. It didn’t happen, but now we get to go home and have the next game.”

It was the third time SKC shut the Timbers out this season. And there’s a strong confidence in the Sporting locker room that they can keep Diego Valeri and Portland off the scoreboard again on Thursday.

“I can’t tell you other than that it’s a credit to the guys. They work hard,” Vermes said. “They were very disciplined here. I think they have been throughout the season. I think we’re a pretty good defensive team and we’ve been consistently that for a long time. And at the same time I think it also takes guys to be concentrated and a lot of hard work, and I think we did that tonight.”

  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended after next caution: None
  • International duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: D - Jimmy Medranda (knee surgery), M - Cristian Lobato (quad injury)

Projected Starting XI
(4-3-3, right to left)
GK: Tim Melia — Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic — Roger Espinoza, Ilie Sanchez, Felipe Gutierrez — Johnny Russell, Diego Rubio, Daniel Salloi

  • Notes: Melia saved six shots against Portland in the first leg, tied for the most saves by a Kansas City goalkeeper in the MLS Cup Playoffs since 2007. He is the 20th keeper since 2010 to keep 3+ clean sheets against one team in a single season (inc. playoffs). … Sporting Kansas City are 15W-2L-4D at home all-time in the MLS Cup Playoffs, conceding an average of 0.8 goals per game.

Portland Timbers

The Timbers haven’t scored a goal against SKC all season, but they’ve found the back of the net multiple times in each of their last two Audi MLS Cup Playoffs games and believe they can do the same at Children’s Mercy Park.

Pressure after a scoreless first leg? What pressure, says Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese.

“I don’t see it as what 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. Prepare the plan, prepare the players to make sure that we get there, recover a few of the guys that today were not available and then make sure we go there to win.”

Savarese was forced to make a change in the first half when central defender Larrys Mabiala went down with an ankle injury. It was the second change Savarese had to make, with Andy Polo suffering a calf strain.

“I’ve been very proud because anybody that steps on the field does the job and Bill did that,” Savarese said of Bill Tuiloma. “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. Unfortunately [he] could have had a goal right there, but a great save by Melia. I thought [Tuiloma] played very, very well.”

  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended after next caution: None
  • International duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: D - Roy Miller (right thigh injury), GK - Jake Gleeson (bilateral tibial stress fracture); QUESTIONABLE: F - Samuel Armenteros (thigh injury), M - Andy Polo (calf strain), D - Larrys Mabiala (ankle injury)

Projected Starting XI
(4-2-3-1, right to left)
GK: Jeff Attinella — Zarek Valentin, Bill Tuiloma, Liam Ridgewell, Jorge Villafana — Diego Chara, David Guzman — Dairon Asprilla, Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco — Jeremy Ebobisse

  • Notes: Valeri created seven chances in the first leg of the series, becoming the ninth player since 2007 to record 7+ chances created in a MLS Cup Playoff match and the first to do so since Sacha Kljestan against Montreal in 2016. … The Timbers are 4W-2L-2D on the road in the MLS Cup Playoffs, scoring multiple goals in all but two of those games.

All-Time Series (Regular Season)

Officials

Referee: Mark Geiger
Assistant Referees: Joe Fletcher, Matthew Nelson
4th Official: Baldomero Toledo
VAR: Dave Gantar

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Current Form

Sporting KC
Portland

Season Stats

Sporting Kansas CityPortland Timbers
37Games Played38
19Wins17
8Losses11
10Draws10
70Goals60
43Goals Conceded53
473Shots385
221Shots on Target190
420Fouls committed417
396Fouls suffered424
43Offside72
220Corners179

Goals Scored

01234+TotalAvg
SKC791146701.9
POR8111171601.6
01234+Avg
SKC255332.1
POR437501.7
01234+Avg
SKC546131.7
POR484211.5

Goals Conceded

01234+TotalAvg
SKC149941431.2
POR1211933531.4
01234+Avg
SKC746101.1
POR964000.7
01234+Avg
SKC753311.3
POR355332.1
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