The Portland Timbers will be hosting MLS Cup after a 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference final on Saturday. While the Timbers have appeared in MLS Cup twice, winning in 2015 and losing to Atlanta United in 2018, this will be their first time with home-field advantage. They’ll face NYCFC, who beat the Philadelphia Union 2-1 on Sunday.
The Timbers took the lead five minutes in as the ball played ping pong around the defense before being kicked to Felipe Mora who put his finish past David Ochoa. For a Salt Lake side that has prided themselves on being a defensively stout side, that was a soft goal to concede which would impact the rest of the match.
After opening the scoring, Portland would turn up the pressure registering three chances before Real Salt Lake even took their first shot in the 28th minute. And even that was a tame shot from Anderson Julio that didn’t trouble Steve Clark. Damir Kreilach did force a save before the half from a header but that was the only chance of note for Salt Lake.
It took until the 49th minute for Real Salt Lake to get their first corner of the game but even the header from that didn’t trouble a Portland side that has been much improved after being one of the worst defensive sides in the league during the regular season. Santiago Moreno found himself in space and got the insurance goal in the 61st minute with help from the post and Ochoa’s back to find its way in.
Salt Lake tried to salvage things by subbing on Justin Meram and Bobby Wood who combined for the winner against Sporting Kansas City but this is where having Diego Chara is a massive advantage for the Timbers. Aaron Herrera would be sent off for Salt Lake late in the second half for picking up his second yellow card for an unnecessary challenge on Marvin Loría but even without that, they didn’t have enough to get back into this one.
Credit has to be given to Gio Savarese both for cleaning up the team’s defense but also for being able to rest Sebastian Blanco in such an important match so that he’ll be closer to 100 percent for MLS Cup.