Just a couple weeks ago, you could've gotten great money on the Columbus Crew hosting the MLS Cup. Not only did they need to beat the best team in the league, the New York Red Bulls, but they also needed the Portland Timbers to upset FC Dallas. Both goals were accomplished, and now, the Crew and the Timbers will fight it out for the right to win the MLS Cup on Sunday, December 6 at MAPFRE Stadium.
Portland has been a fantastic story this year. The team had never won a home-and-home series in its history in the MLS, and now, it has managed to take out both Vancouver and FC Dallas, two of the best teams in the crowded Western Conference. Now, they're 90 minutes away from winning their first championship.
The Timbers had all sorts of problems scoring all season long. No team in the West which got into the playoffs scored fewer goals this year than did Portland, and after watching this team play 90 scoreless minutes at home against Vancouver in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals, there really seemed to be no hope.
Alas, then came the goals. Diego Valeri started playing a huge role in the attack from the midfield, while Darlington Naege found himself in the right place at the right time more often than not when he came forward. Fanendo Adi has found the back of the net as the team's top striker in two of his last three games, and he cracked the post once in that span as well.
Now, when all else seemed lost for this offense, Portland has found its way. It has scored at least two goals in three matches in a row, and that's why it was able to put away FC Dallas without any real concern in spite of the fact that it was a huge underdog.
The Crew have only been to the MLS Cup one time in their history, that coming back in 2008 when they beat the Red Bulls in Los Angeles at the Home Depot Center.
That's not to say they haven't had a ton of playoff success, though. Columbus has taken a lot of steps forward in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but it has never been able to get past that hurdle of the Red Bulls.
This year though, has been much different. Let's not forget that the Crew were beaten in their first playoff match of the year in Montreal, and they needed to go to extra time just to dispatch one of the hot, up and coming teams in the MLS.
Against New York though, this defense really flexed its muscle. Never did it seem possible to hold the Red Bulls without a goal for 180 minutes, but that's exactly what the Crew did. Sure, the Red Bulls had their chances in the 90th minute and drew one of the two goals they needed back, but they were never turning over that 2-0 deficit from here at MAPFRE Stadium.
The key question for the Timbers is who is going to slow down Kei Kamara. Kamara has been all over the pitch, and when he gets up to head a ball, it's game over for the defense. If this game is decided in the air, the Crew are going to be celebrating a championship.
These two teams only met once in the regular season, and it happened to be here in Columbus. The Timbers won 2-1 in a fixture played way back in September. Kamara scored a goal for the Crew, but he was bested on that day by Adi, who put together a brace.
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