The 2021 MLS playoffs have lined up perfectly for the fourth-seeded Portland Timbers. They’re set to host the Western Conference final at their home field of Providence Park and a win — against the lowest remaining seed in the Western Conference, no less — would see them hosting the MLS Cup final for the first time in club history.
But seventh-seeded Real Salt Lake, which only made the postseason on a stoppage-time goal in the regular season finale, enters the match on a Cinderella run. It has already gone on the road twice and shocked two MLS Cup hopefuls in the Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City. After failing to register a single shot against Seattle, RSL outplayed Sporting to earn a deserved victory and clinch a meeting against Portland.
The Timbers won all three previous meetings during the regular season, but RSL played them tougher than the results would suggest. And the visitors could benefit from the fact that Portland may be missing two of its most influential players. Sebastian Blanco is listed as probable with a hamstring injury, and Dairon Asprilla is suspended.
Meanwhile, talented midfielder Albert Rusnak is available for RSL again, and he has the ability to decide a match with a moment of brilliance. RSL, which will be without midfielder fixture Everton Luiz, will need any edge it can get given it’s the clear underdog. It has only won two of 14 all-time trips to Portland, but the Clarent-and-Cobalt have also won the only three postseason matchups in history.
Both teams are in search of their second MLS Cup title. Portland is looking to advance to its third MLS Cup final (2015, 2018), as is RSL (2009, 2013).
How to watch Portland vs. Real Salt Lake
- Date: Saturday, Dec. 4
- Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
- TV channel: FS1
- Spanish-language TV: Fox Deportes
- Streaming: fuboTV
The MLS Western Conference final between the Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake will air on FS1 (English) and Fox Deportes (Spanish) with both channels available to stream on fuboTV. New users can try fuboTV on a free 7-day trial.
Portland vs. RSL Lineups
Marvin Loria could be the replacement for the suspended Asprilla on the wing, and if Blanco hasn’t recovered from the hamstring injury in the last match, Santiago Moreno or Diego Valeri could fill in. Goalkeeper Jeff Attinella (quad surgery) and midfielders Eryk Williamson (ACL) and Andy Polo (knee surgery) are long-term injury absences.
Timbers projected starting lineup (4-2-3-1, right to left): 12-Steve Clark-GK — 2-Josecarlos Van Rankin, 33-Larrys Mabiala, 13-Dario Zuparic, 5-Claudio Bravo — 21-Diego Chara (capt), 22-Cristhian Paredes — 23-Yimmi Chara, 10-Sebastian Blanco, 44-Marvin Loria — 9-Felipe Mora
Timbers projected subs (9): 31-Aljaz Ivacic, 26-Hunter Sulte-GK, 25-Bill Tuiloma, 28-Pablo Bonilla, 20-George Fochive, 40-Renzo Zambrano, 30-Santiago Moreno, 8-Diego Valeri, 11-Jaroslaw Niezgoda
Real Salt Lake have a fairly healthy squad going into the Western Conference final, though it’s unclear if Rusnak is ready to start after a bout with COVID-19. Luiz (yellow-card accumulation) is a big loss in midfield.
RSL projected starting lineup (4-2-3-1, right to left): 1-David Ochoa-GK — 22-Aaron Herrera, 15-Justen Glad, 30-Marcelo Silva, 2-Andrew Brody — 13-Nick Besler, 6-Pablo Ruiz — 10-Jonathan Menendez, 8-Damir Kreilach, 16-Maikel Chang — 14-Rubio Rubin
RSL projected subs (9): 18-Zac MacMath-GK, 51-Andrew Putna-GK, 3-Ashtone Morgan, 20-Erik Holt, 4-Donny Toia, 9-Justin Meram, 11-Albert Rusnak, 29-Anderson Julio, 7-Bobby Wood
Portland vs. RSL: Betting odds & prediction
(Odds courtesy of DraftKings)
Portland manager Giovanni Savarese has excelled at tournament play throughout his career, and it’s tough to see his team letting this opportunity to host the MLS Cup slip by.
As tough as it is for any team to beat another four times in the same season, Savarese will have the Timbers ready to take advantage of opportunities in transition, and if they can get a lead, they are clinical at managing matches.
Pick: Timbers to win in 90 minutes (-140)
Prediction: Portland 2, RSL 1
- Moneyline (90 minutes): Portland -140 / Draw +300 / RSL +380
- To advance: Portland -270 / RSL +210
- Spread: Portland -0.5 (-135) / RSL +0.5 (+120)
- O/U 2.5 total goals: Over -135 / Under +110
- Both Teams To Score: Yes -145 / No +115