Some unusual things have happened during Portland’s playoff push to the MLS Cup final, so it was understandable when coach Caleb Porter was asked if he thought destiny had a hand in it.
“Do I believe in destiny?” Porter laughed. “That’s a deep question.”
Destiny certainly appeared on the Timbers’ side at the start of the playoffs, when Portland beat Sporting Kansas City on penalties after a 2-all draw.
In the 11-round shootout, jaws dropped when Kansas City rookie Saad Abdul-Salaam’s shot unbelievably bounced off both posts and out of the goal. Then goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey nailed his shot before deflecting Sporting keeper Jon Kempin’s chance, giving Portland the win.
The Timbers, playing their best soccer of the season, will play the Columbus Crew on Sunday for the MLS Cup title at Mapfre Park.
Things took an almost existential turn after Porter considered the destiny question in the pregame press conference.
“To succeed, you’re going to have to suffer some. But if you’re able hang on and going through the suffering then you survive. That says everything about our team: We’ve suffered a little bit, we’ve had pressure, it was fair,” Porter said.
While the Timbers pondered destiny, the Crew were dealing with uncertainty.
Kei Kamara was injured in practice Saturday and his status for the match was in the air. The striker from Sierra Leone tied for the MLS goals lead with 22 in the regular season.
He fell awkwardly and then clutched his right leg.
“I haven’t had a chance to assess it yet,” coach Gregg Berhalter said. “So I’m going to go in the locker room and figure out what happened and figure out what the treatment is and if he is going to be available. My guess right now is that he’d be available.”
The Crew later said via Twitter that Kamara would be a game-time decision.
SCOUTING THE CREW: Columbus is appearing in its second MLS Cup championship game. It won the title in 2008 with a 3-1 victory over New York. The Crew went 15-11-8 in the regular season, finishing second in the Eastern Conference. In the conference semifinals, Columbus beat Montreal 4-3 with extra time, and claimed the East title with a 2-1 victory on aggregate over New York.
SCOUTING THE TIMBERS: The Timbers, who joined MLS as an expansion team in 2011, have never played in the final. Portland went 15-11-8 in the regular season, finishing third in the Western Conference. After the dramatic knockout game against Kansas City, the Timbers beat Vancouver in the conference semifinals before claiming the West title against Dallas, 5-3 on aggregate.
HISTORY: The teams met once in the regular season, with Portland winning 2-1 in Columbus. Fanendo Adi had both goals for the Timbers.
In six total MLS matches, the record for both teams stands at 2-2-2. Both teams have scored six total goals in the series.
THE LOG: Portland’s mascot, Timber Joey, wields a chainsaw and at every home match he cuts off a slice of the team’ s “Victory Log” for every goal scored by the Timbers. The goal scorer is awarded the slice.
The Victory Log is making the trip to Columbus, but the Crew aren’t being very accommodating. They recently changed the rules at Mapfre to ban both chainsaws and “logs of any wooden variety.”
At last check the Victory Log was making its way through Nebraska. No word from Timber Joey on what’s going to happen once it gets there.