After feasting on the Best Conference Final Ever, soccer fans can enjoy a nightcap. The 2018 Western Conference Final does not feature MLS’ best team ever, nor the league’s best-ever second-best team, but it is a match-up of two solid sides - one of which is going to luck its way into a shot at MLS Cup for no better reason than it is in the Western Conference and the best teams in the league this year are currently pummeling at each other in the Eastern Conference Final.
Sporting Kansas City and Portland Timbers are not bad teams, of course. KC topped the Western Conference in the regular season with 62 points - which would have been enough to win the league in all but seven MLS seasons. The Timbers bounced back from a season-opening slump that saw them pick up just two points from their first five league games; a fifteen-game unbeaten streak followed to right-size the season, before they slumped to the finish line with seven losses in their last 15 games.
Still, Portland is in this series on merit. It has been the lower seed in both rounds it has played of these playoffs so far, and it is the lower seed in this match-up and will be again if it gets to the MLS Cup final. But it wouldn’t have got this far if that were an insurmountable problem. The Timbers have beaten FC Dallas on the road and outlasted Seattle in a Conference Semifinal series that went through extra time to penalties in the second leg.
Portland dug a hole for itself at the start of this season and maybe enjoyed the experience of climbing out of it so much it created another hole to climb into for the post-season.
Under normal circumstances, Once A Metro might suggest RBNY fans looking for a rooting interest in this match-up pick Portland. The underdog can usually use some support, and this underdog is coached by MetroStars legend Giovanni Savarese. Though his season has been ruined by injury - he hasn’t played a minute for the Timbers this season - Roy Miller is also technically a Timber at the moment.
But these are not normal circumstances. Portland is the last team standing between the New York Red Bulls and qualification for the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League. If the Timbers win MLS Cup, then the Timbers are in 2019 CCL. Any other team wins it - and of course we hope it is RBNY - then the Red Bulls are playing CCL next year.
So when you root, root against the Timbers, RBNY fans.
Per livesoccertv.com, here’s where to find the game: