Competition: MLS Cup Playoffs (Western Conference Final First Leg) – Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas
Venue: Providence Park – Sunday, November 22 – 19:30 ET (00:30 GMT)
Match Odds: Portland 23/20 – Draw 23/10 – Dallas 12/5
Portland know that hosting the first leg means the pressure is on them to get a good result. Keeping a clean sheet will be a priority to prevent Dallas from getting a potentially vital away goal and Caleb Porter’s side will be confident having not conceded in their last two.
The Timbers followed up their knockout round penalty win over Sporting Kansas City by beating Vancouver 2-0 on aggregate in the Western Conference semifinals. They have worked hard to get this far and now have the MLS Cup in sight.
Portland Timbers’ 2015 MLS record: P37 – W16 – D10 – L11
FC Dallas travel to Portland in fine spirits themselves after advancing past the Seattle Sounders in an incredibly dramatic conference semifinal second leg two weeks ago that went all the way to penalties.
They were unlucky not to win the Supporters’ Shield but the Western Conference winners will now be eyeing up the MLS Cup Final in two week’s time.
This should be an entertaining clash between two of Major League Soccer’s most solid sides. They tied for goals conceded in the regular season (39) with the third-best defensive records in MLS.
FC Dallas’ 2015 MLS record: P36 – W19 – D6 – L11
Dallas have only won one of their last five away games, though, and travel West as underdogs here.
They have never won at Providence Park and face a tough task in getting a positive result on Sunday evening.
Portland will still be without Ben Zemanski as his long-term ACL injury continues to rule him out of action. Diego Chara is once again a doubt but should be able to start the game. Fanendo Adi is expected to start as the lone striker with Darlington Nagbe in behind.
FC Dallas manager Oscar Pareja has three injury doubts coming into the game as Andres Escobar, Rolando Escobar and Kellyn Acosta are all unlikely to start.
Portland Timbers’ last five: W/W/D/D/W
FC Dallas’ last five: W/W/W/L/W
Key Stat: FC Dallas have never won away to the Portland Timbers in six previous attempts (D2 L4).
Key Player: Darlington Nagbe – The Timbers playmaker has thrived since being shifted into the centre of the field and will be tasked with trying to unlock the Dallas defence on Sunday night.
Portland Timbers 1-0 FC Dallas – This should be a tense and low-scoring first leg between two sides that will set up to avoid defeat. Home comforts mean Portland will be urged forward and they should score at least once to take the advantage into next Sunday’s second leg in Dallas.