Expectations are high for the Portland Timbers to start almost the exact same line up we saw in the second leg of the FC Dallas series, as everyone will be available for Caleb Porter to use. With that acknowledged, how will the Timbers line up against the Columbus Crew on Sunday afternoon in the 2015 Audi MLS Cup Final?
The only significant change we may see is Liam Ridgewell back in the center back position this match after telling reporters on Friday he was feeling good and ready to go. Ridgewell missed the second leg due to a groin injury he picked up in the first leg. Ridgewell will be replacing Norberto Paparatto, who had a decent match filling in at center back.
Portland likes to come out and play in a 4-3-3 style lineup that seems to have hit its stride since the debut against LA. It has etablished the Timbers' late season dominance and run of terror.
At the goalkeeper position, it’s a no brainer for the Timbers. Adam Kwarasey will be starting after being an extremely valuable addition following the departure of Donovan Ricketts at the end of 2014.
From left to right, we should expect to see Jorge Villafana, who has improved consistently since making his debut in 2014. He’s been a good shut down left back, but knows when to move up and has provided several key crosses into the box during the playoffs.
At center back, Nat Borchers will line up alongside Ridgewell. Borchers, who may be the MVP of the postseason for Portland either because of his goal against FC Dallas or his critical block on the line to stop a Blaz Perez rocket shot late on in the second leg. The big bearded man has been on fire this post season.
On the right side Alvas Powell will once again be back there with his crafty foot work.
Darlington Nagbe, who seems to have gone to a new level after his USMNT Call up. The midfielder looks even more dangerous than ever before, and he will be a critical part of the offence.
Diego Chara, who has been pushing that line all playoffs. Some fans say he’s the Osvaldo Alonso of the Timbers with his constant hard play. It is play like that which will win you MLS Cup as its gotten them all the way to the finals.
Diego Valeri, the creative hub for Portland. Since he and Nagbe have bee pushed into attacking midfield roles the Timbers have clicked, and if they are to find a winning goal on Sunday expect for one of the other of them to have created it.
Rodney Wallace will be on the left wing, and while he is having a rather quiet playoffs, he’s been good with continuing to apply pressure on the defense. He really can be dangerous if Columbus makes the mistake of giving him too much space.
Fanedo Adi, the other real no brainer up top having now scored two goals in the playoffs. Each strike came off a marvelous spin and shoot piece of footwork, and even if he doesn’t score his height forces teas to double team him. That of course creates space for others, which should give his teammates good look at goals. Also let’s not forget it was Adi’s brace that won it for Portland at MAPFRE in September.
Dairon Asprilla has probably been the real shocker in the playoffs having played some beautiful soccer this post season, most notably his wonder goal against Dallas. Although that is the sort of strike which is rarely replicated, he'll keep Columbus on their toes.
That should be the starting XI announced on Sunday for the Portland Timbers as they take on the Columbus Crew for the MLS Cup, you can watch the game on ESPN at 4pm EST or follow along with our live game feed where VAVEL MLS will be bringing you all the action live from Columbus.