There's evenly-matched teams, and then there's Vancouver and Portland.
Dating back to the regular season, the Cascadia rivals have now played to three straight draws. There have been a total of two goals scored in those games.
Clearly, there's not a lot between the two teams.
So what will be the difference on Sunday, when Whitecaps FC host the Timbers in the decisive second leg of the Western Conference Semifinal at BC Place (7 p.m. PT on TSN1 - limited tickets still available)?
Let's see what the experts have to say.
VANCOUVER WILL WIN IF:
“Pedro Morales plays up to his potential and dictates the tempo of the game. When he is on, there is arguably no one better in MLS at controlling the tempo of the game than Pedro. His passing range is exceptional, and if he can find space in midfield, he can spring Octavio Rivero and Kekuta Manneh in behind Portland’s back four. Then, it is simply a matter of keeping calm and being clinical in front of goal. If Pedro is on form, the ‘Caps will have enough chances to win this game in regulation time.” - Jason deVos, TSN Soccer Analyst
“They can be more clinical in front of goal. Chances were at a premium for the 'Caps in Portland last Sunday but there were still a couple of good opportunities that fell to Octavio Rivero and Gershon Koffie. With Vancouver now at home, it is likely to be a much different game. I'm expecting a more open, attacking performance from Carl Robinson's team and plenty of chances created. This time around, they must create a lot more work for either Adam Kwarasey or Jake Gleeson in the Timbers goal.” - Luke Wileman, TSN soccer host and play-by-play commentator
“They shut out the Timbers. In their five-year history, they've never done that at BC Place.” - Peter Schaad, Whitecaps FC play-by-play voice on TSN radio/TSN
“They score first. VAN is very good defensively, tough to break down, and are superb in transition and on the counter attack. Scoring first will force POR to push higher, especially as the game goes on, which will leave openings for VAN to get forward, create chances, and (fingers crossed) bag a second goal.” - David Norman, Whitecaps FC colour commentator on TSN radio
PORTLAND WILL WIN IF:
“The midfield trio of Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri and Diego Chara (if he is fit) are allowed to dictate things in midfield. Chara is a nuisance to play against, and if he disrupts Pedro’s game, the pressure will be on the Whitecaps’ two defensive midfielders (Laba and Koffie, I would presume) to shut down Valeri and Nagbe. Not an easy task, by any means, but something both players are more than capable of doing. If that supply line is cut off, life becomes much more difficult for Fanendo Adi up top for Portland.” - Jason deVos, TSN Soccer Analyst
“They win the midfield battle. The Timbers could have Diego Chara back from injury giving them a massive boost in midfield, but they also have lots of attacking pieces that can trouble the 'Caps. Darlington Nagbe is in excellent form, and Diego Valeri and Rodney Wallace have the ability to cause problems.” - Luke Wileman, TSN soccer host and play-by-play commentator
“They score the first goal. They've won 14 when they have. Vancouver has won 15 when scoring first. Neither team has won when they've conceded first (keeping in mind a 1-1 draw puts the Timbers through).” - Peter Schaad, Whitecaps FC play-by-play voice on TSN radio/TSN
“Their front three play better than last Sunday. POR was very good at the back in the first leg, and excellent in the middle of the park. Their front three let them down, until Urruti and Asprilla came on. Like Vancouver, they are good in goal, their back four is consistently good, and they are very good in midfield. If their forwards have quality performances, it could be lights out for the ‘Caps. - David Norman, Whitecaps FC colour commentator on TSN radio
KEY MATCHUP TO WATCH…
“Kendall Waston against Fanendo Adi. Two big men battling it out like warriors for 90 minutes in a winner-takes-all playoff match? What’s not to like? Waston has been immense for Vancouver this season, and got the better of Adi in the first leg. More of the same in the return leg from the giant Costa Rican will give Whitecaps FC the advantage. Then, it is all about what the ‘Caps do up at the other end of the park. If Waston and co. keep a clean sheet, they’ve done their half of the job.” - Jason deVos, TSN Soccer Analyst
“If Pedro Morales is fit to return, he could be a match winner for the 'Caps with his ability to speak play and split the defence with his passing ability. But Kekuta Manneh vs. the Timbers defence is another key area. With the onus on the 'Caps to push forward, this is the sort of game in which Manneh can play a massive role. He drifted into a central position often on Sunday and certainly has the beating of Liam Ridgewell and Nat Borchers for pace. When the 'Caps are at their best going forward, Manneh is usually on his game, running at the back line.” - Luke Wileman, TSN soccer host and play-by-play commentator
“Darlington Nagbe vs Matias Laba. Nagbe took Laba to school in the regular season meeting at BC Place, but Laba bounced back in the 1-1 game at PDX. Nabge cannot be allowed to run the show.” - Peter Schaad, Whitecaps FC play-by-play voice on TSN radio/TSN
“The key matchup for me is not a 1v1 battle, it is midfield v midfield. The ‘Caps will play with a double pivot – two out of Laba, Koffie, or Teibert – and have Rosales or Morales start in the number 10 role. POR will counter that with a single pivot who will probably be Chara, and then two players in Nagbe and Valeri that are on a fantastic run of form. Tasty stuff when you look at the quality these teams have in midfield. Whichever midfield trio can top the other will likely lead their side to victory.” - David Norman, Whitecaps FC colour commentator on TSN radio
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