In the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals, both home teams picked up results. The Portland Timbers knocked off the Seattle Sounders 2-1 in a match where all the scoring took place in the first 30 minutes of action, while Real Salt Lake secured a draw against regular season champions Sporting KC. All four teams are very much alive heading into the second leg of their bout with a spot in the Western Conference Finals on the line.
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Portland Timbers +357
Seattle Sounders -135
Over/Under 2.5 and 3
This second leg will take place on Thursday, November 8, unlike the other three semifinal games which will happen on Sunday, November 11. Because the Sounders and Seahawks share a stadium, this game had to be moved up in order for Seattle to be able to use its raucous homefield advantage to its benefit.
There are some injury woes ahead of this match. Portland has been without defender Roy Miller and goalkeeper Jake Gleeson for a while, and Seattle will be without forward Felix Chenkam and defender Brad Smith is questionable. The Sounders had two players injured in Sunday’s first leg, with Cristian Roldan and Chad Marshall both leaving in the first half due to injury. Roldan has a hip flexor issue and is questionable ahead of the game, and Marshall is doubtful due to a knee injury.
Diego Valeri was the difference maker for Portland in the first leg. He missed his best chance at the end of the second half, but he was the man of the match for setting up both of the Timbers goals. Valeri made Jeremy Ebobisse’s equalizer in the 17th minute possible with a fantastic cross, and he created Sebastian Blanco’s go-ahead goal by thundering down the middle of the field and pulling defenders away.
That was the second time Valeri turned it on to beat the Sounders this season. On June 30 in Seattle, he assisted on all three of Portland’s goals to knock off the Sounders in a 3-2 victory right before Seattle reeled off an MLS-record nine straight wins.
For Seattle, Nicolas Lodeiro continues to be the maestro of the midfield. Lodeiro led the team in assists with 16, and he has been in great form with October being his best month. He has also knocked in eight goals on the year, making him the Sounders’ second-leading scorer. There will be added pressure on his shoulders though if Roldan can’t go.
Real Salt Lake +584
Sporting Kansas City -242
Sporting Kansas City are heavy favorites to advance after a draw in the first leg. Sporting KC have been the most consistent team in the Western Conference over the course of the season, but Real Salt Lake has given them trouble in their previous meetings. They are now 1-2-1 against RSL in four matches in 2018.
On the injury front, Sporting KC is still without midfielder Cristian Lobato, but he will be the only player not available for selection aside from defender Jimmy Medranda who suffered a season-ending injury a few months back. Meanwhile. Real Salt Lake continues to be without defenders David Horst and Tony Beltran, midfielder Jordan Allen, and reserve goalkeeper Alex Horwath. They will also not have midfielder Albert Rusnak after he picked up his second yellow of the playoffs in the first leg, and defender Marcelo Silva left the first leg with a groin injury, so his status is questionable.
Nick Rimando will likely have to come up big for Real Salt Lake to advance. The ageless wonder has continued to play well despite being 39, and he had some nice stops in the first leg.
For Sporting KC, Johnny Russell is the most likely difference maker. He notched 10 goals and 10 assists during the regular season, and he played very well in the first leg despite not registering on the scoresheet.
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