Going into the 2015 MLS Cup, the Portland Timbers are by far one of the hottest teams in MLS as they found the afterburners at the right time to make a run all the way to the Final. They have to be favorites going into the final having not lost on the road since August 30th.
A team that at one point in September was looking down and out after drawing 0-0 at Providence Park against Sporting Kansas City, then the following week losing 2-0 at home to the eventual Supporters' Shield-winning New York Red Bulls, team went on the road and shocked most with a 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew off an Fanendo Adi brace. They quickly followed up at home dropping yet another three points to Sporting Kansas City again off of a Krisztian Nemeth wonder goal that would end up being Goal of the Year.
It came down to a road match against Western Conference foe Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium in a match that was a must win for both sides. Portland had to win to stay in the running and Real Salt Lake were merely hoping to not get eliminated from playoff contention. However, a red card and Adi penalty kick in the 52nd minute seemed to be the spark Portland needed to start its run.
The Timbers continued on their road trip with the second part being in Los Angeles to take on the LA Galaxy at Stubhub Center, a game that everyone thought they would lose. No one who has watched this season had them picked to win following the Galaxy’s show of dominance at home. However, Portland shocked the league when they hung five goals on the defending champions in 25 minutes to win 5-2 for a second win in a row.
Portland would have one final regular season match on #DecisionDay at home against the Colorado Rapids where they would win 4-1 to lock themselves into the third seed and a date with Sporting Kansas City for the third time in eight matches.
The match was one for the ages, deemed by some analysts as the best playoff game ever, Rodney Wallace started it all when he got the first goal of the match in the 57th minute. 30 minutes later Kevin Ellis would get the equalizer in the 87th, ensuring this match was going into extra time. Six minutes into stoppage time Nemeth would find the back of the net to give Sporting a 2-1 advantage over Portland. As the minutes winded down and hope dwindled away, with just two minutes left in the extra time Dairon Asprilla sent a cross into the box that Maxi Urruti headed into the net in dramatic fashion to knot the match up at 2-2. The match would go on to 11 penalty kicks, featuring one from Saad Abdul-Salaam that went off both posts and would have sent Sporting into the next round. Finally in the 11th round, the shoot-put came down to the two keepers. Adam Kwarasey put a powerful shot that sailed past Jon Kempin to give the Timbers the advantage. On the ensuing kick Kwarasey managed to save Kempin’s shot to advance the Timbers on to the Western Conference Semi-Finals.
The Vancouver Whitecaps traveled down to the Rose City for the first match of the CASCADIA playoff derby against Portland. The first leg was a rather boring nil-nil opener to start the series moving the second match back North of the border up to BC Place in what was the most electric environment ever felt for an MLS match in Vancouver. However, Portland would be too much, and an Adi goal in the first half was all Portland needed to advance past the falling Whitecaps. Diego Chara also managed to find the net in stoppage time but by then it was all over.
Just before that game started FC Dallas had just knocked out the Timbers arch rival in the Seattle Sounders FC in penalty kicks and would travel to the Rose City for the first match of the conference final series following the November international break. In the first leg centerback Liam Ridgewell got the scoring started in the first half when he tapped the ball in to take the early lead. Portland continued their domination in the second half and an Asprilla wonder goal that many said would have been Goal of the Year had it come in the regular season gave Portland a 2-0 advantage. But, Dallas wasn’t going down without a fight; David Texeira rerouted a Je-Vaughn Watson cross in the 62nd minute to make it 2-1. Yet, Portland continued to push and it paid off on a corner in the first minute of stoppage time when Nat Borchers managed to knock in a poorly handled shot by Jesse Gonzalez to give Portland a 3-1 advantage to take back to Frisco with them.
In the second leg, both teams started off trying hard but nothing developed in the first half. In the 54th minute, the match opened up when Adi found himself in a prime position with the ball at his feet. Adi fired home to make it 1-0 on the day and 4-1 on aggregate. However, this was the spark FC Dallas needed, and in the 68th minute Ryan Hollingshead got one back to make it 4-2 on aggregate. Then just five minutes later Blas Perez managed to get a second for FC Dallas and suddenly it was 1-2 and 4-3 overall. Yet, that was all FC Dallas could muster and Lucas Melano managed to level the match at 2-2 in stoppage time and Portland won the series 5-3 overall.
The Timbers have not lost on the road since August 30th when they fell to Seattle and managed to go 4-0-1 in the time since then with that one draw being the match in Dallas.
All that leads us to Sunday, where Portland will travel once again to Columbus and take on the Crew. Where the road run began. Watch what happens live on ESPN at 4pm EST. Also follow along with our live game thread as we will be in Columbus bringing you all of the action.