Portland Timbers: Caleb Porter (19-15-7, first season)
Real Salt Lake: Jason Kreis (111-64-85, seventh season)
10th Meeting All-Time: Real Salt Lake — six wins; Portland Timbers — one win, three draws
If you are a fan of RSL, you’ve got to love the position they are in right now. Going into the second leg of the Western Conference Finals with a two-goal cushion on the road against a team who has only lost once at home. Jason Kreis has said that his club will continue to attack, which is the best possible option in a game like this especially with only a two-goal lead.
RSL has been in this position before back in the 2011 Playoffs when they defeated Seattle Sounders FC 3-0 at home and then came out and tried to park the bus in the second leg, nearly giving it away in the end and escaping with a 3-2 aggregate victory.
History is on the side of RSL in this matchup as they have owned the Timbers in their all-time meetings; also, only two teams out of a possible 11 have successfully overcome a two-goal deficit coming into the second leg. The last time that happened was in 2004 when Sporting Kansas City won the second leg 3-0 at home to advance 3-2 on aggregate.
All is not lost though for the Portland Timbers. They have only lost one time at home across all competitions this season and have a very balanced, potent attack capable of putting up lots of goals. Portland has scored two or more goals in eight matches at home this season.
I do not expect Porter to change his tactics to start, but I do expect to see Jack Jewsbury and Michael Harrington make attacking runs more often. Jewsbury is also a converted right-back so if Portland is still in need of a late goal, I’d expect Porter to go with a three-man back line, pushing Jewsbury into the central midfield to allow Will Johnson to push forward more into the attack.
The winner of this game will be the team who wins the matchup between Chris Wingert‘s replacement at left-back and Darlington Nagbe. Wingert will miss this second leg due to a fractured rib suffered very early in the first leg; he was replaced by Lovel Palmer in that match, and I imagine that Palmer will be the replacement in the second leg.
Portland Timbers Projected Lineup: 4-2-3-1
Jack Jewsbury — Mamadou Danso — Pa Modou Kah — Michael Harrington
Diego Chara — Will Johnson
Darlington Nagbe — Diego Valeri — Rodney Wallace
Real Salt Lake Projected Lineup: 4-2-3-1
Tony Beltran — Nat Borchers — Chris Schuler — Lovel Palmer
Yordany Alvarez — Kyle Beckerman
Luis Gil — Javier Morales — Sebastian Velasquez
Portland Timbers will host Real Salt Lake in the second leg of the Western Conference Finals at Jeld-Wen Field on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 9:00 p.m. ET. This match can be seen nationally on ESPN.
This is a two-game aggregate goal series; away goals are not used for the tiebreaker. If the series score is tied after 90 minutes, then the game will proceed into two 15-minute extra time periods. If it is still tied, then the match will move forward to penalty kicks.
Leg 2 Prediction: Portland Timbers 3 — Real Salt Lake 2 (Real Salt Lake wins 6-5 on aggregate)
These teams have put up loads of goals against each other, and I expect this match to be wide open with lots of odd-man rushes. With a trip to MLS Cup 2013 on the line, you can expect both clubs to give everything they have to make their championship dreams come true.