Timbers win Western Conference Final, will play for MLS Cup
It's not supposed to be this easy. The Portland Timbers rolled over Real Salt Lake 2-0 Saturday, Dec. 4, and will play in the MLS Cup Final at home on Dec. 11.
Despite missing two key strikers, the Timbers controlled the game throughout. From the fifth minute — when Felipe Mora, the Timbers' top scorer this season, shocked Mexico Under-23 goalkeeper David Ochoa with a rapid side foot into the corner — the Timbers rarely looked in danger of conceding a goal.
The Timbers Army unveiled an extra wide tifo after the national anthem, which read: "HOLD YOUR GROUND, TAKE THE CROWN," a dig at the "royal" in their opponents' name. A second banner rose saying the familiar Timbers claim, King of Clubs, in Latin. Soon it will be time to dust off the lucky tifo phrase from 2015, "Cup bound and down."
Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark made several saves, including one from a bullet header by Damir Kreilach in the 31st minute. The Timbers Army saluted him with a snapping arm motion and chanted his name. The day was cold, and the rain rarely let up. When the red smoke was let loose in the 24th minute in support of Portland Thorns players, it blew hard to the east. The stadium was almost full, with the North End in a good mood and consistently loud. Even at the southeast corner, the Real Salt Lake fans were drowned out and lost their mojo in the second half.
The game was effectively over with half an hour to go when Santiago Moreno rifled in the second off the post, onto Ochoa's back and into the net. Taunted as a "dogy keeper" in the first half, Ochoa must have been grateful to be away from those fans by then.
When RSL's Aaron Herrera was sent off for a second bookable offense in the 79th minute, it was all over but for the shouting. Herrera jogged straight off the field and into the locker room, to save time as well as save face, and Timbers fans had the luxury of enjoying the end of the game.
Although all eyes were on the MLS Cup Final next week, there was the matter of presenting the Western Conference Championship trophy. At the final whistle a mighty roar went up from the whole of Providence Park. The Real Salt Lake players clapped their fans and commiserated for five minutes but left the field before the Timbers players took to the mobile stage and jiggled as Diego Chara accepted the cup amid fireworks and confetti. Players' children streamed onto the pitch, while others took selfies and Bill Tuilloma ran the trophy by the outstretched hands of fans down the east side of the pitch.
After the scorers and Clark (for a shutout) received their log slices from Timber Joey, the players returned to the middle of the field and all but the hard core of the Timbers Army headed for the exits, chattering excitedly about next week's chance to bring the MLS Cup home for a second time, cup-bound and on a high.
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