KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers spent 90-plus minutes last Sunday in an exhausting, mentally taxing showdown that ultimately ended in a scoreless draw.
Sporting KC captain Matt Besler expects a similar style of game Thursday night.
Two of the most successful and passionately supported teams in Major League Soccer will meet in Kansas City for the second leg of their home-and-home, aggregate-goal playoff. One will leave as Western Conference champion and head to MLS Cup while the other will be done for the season.
“That first game was physical,” Besler said. “We expected that just because it’s the playoffs and both teams want to start that way, and us being away from home, we wanted to make sure we matched their intensity to start the game.”
It left both teams in a precarious position in the return leg.
The tiebreaker in MLS playoff games is away goals, and Sporting KC was unable to find the net in Portland despite a few good chances in the second half. Johnny Russell had the best of them when he sent a shot over the crossbar, and Daniel Salloi had a good attempt in stoppage time knocked away.
That means Sporting KC needs to either win the game outright Thursday or forge another scoreless draw, at which point penalty kicks would be used to determine who advances.
If the Timbers win or manage a draw with any number of goals, they would head to MLS Cup.