Let's list the teams that scored more goals than the Portland Timbers during the regular season:
- Red Bulls, Columbus, Toronto, L.A. Galaxy, FC Dallas, Seattle, Vancouver, Sporting KC.
- DC United, Montreal, New England.
- Houston, Orlando City, New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago.
Portland Timbers (West #3 seed) vs. Columbus Crew SC (East #2 seed)
Sunday 6 December, 4:00 p.m. ET
MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
VEGAS SAYS: Picking head-to-head, Columbus -170, Portland +140. On the moneyline, Columbus +110, Portland +235, draw (penalty shootout!) +240.
WHY CREW SC WINS: They almost never have a bad day at home. They've won three straight at the MAPFRE, and have scored at least two goals in nine of their last eleven at home. Greg Berhalter's men are known to get tricky-- as Matt Doyle writes, they won't hesitate to swap wings to exploit matchups, and are known to use Pipa Higuain's savvy to eat holding midfielders alive (what's up, Dax McCarty?).
The high-flying Crew were one of only three teams to land two players on the MLS Best XI of the year, and supporting cast members like Justin Meram and Cedrick Mabwati are playing as well as ever in the famous Barbasol shirt. This team is locked and loaded.
WHY PORTLAND WINS: Are they The Team of Destiny? Is it as simple as that? Caleb Porter's squad achieved that strange, immaterial state of MLS nirvana by switching into their highest gear just as the regular season was winding down. No team is more firmly in "playoff mode," and perhaps no fan base besides Seattle travels better.
Oh, a note about the Crew's three-match home winning streak: I'll let you guess which visiting team most recently won in Columbus. ... Got it? Yep, you can't make this stuff up. Portland's 2-1 victory on September 26th was also the last time Columbus surrendered more than a single goal at home. Come on, say it out loud: Team of Destiny.
PHUN PHACT: Timber Joey does't play around! The visiting team is bringing its famous log to the game, traveling a distance of nearly 2,500 miles. No word as to whether Joey's chainsaw will make it past stadium security.
WHAT THEY'RE WRITING
SB Nation has all the bases covered for Sunday's Cup showdown.
Don't miss these stories from Columbus's Massive Report:
- Pat Murphy writes that Crew defender Michael Parkhurst feels like he has something to prove after coming so close to winning the Cup with New England in the mid-2000's.
- Patrick Guldan writes about a VIP who will be in attendance on Sunday-- Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, a FIFA presidential candidate.
- Guldan and Kristopher Landis put together a Visitors' Guide to the Massive City. Don't forget to visit Hot Chicken Takeover!!!
- Our friend Chris Rifer gives three things to watch.
- William Conwell regales in the goalkeeping brilliance of Adam Kwarasey, who was recently given MLS Save of the Year honors.
- Kevin McCamish issues a heartfelt ode to the Timbers Army, one of the truly remarkable fan bases in soccer.
Portland 3, Columbus 2. Chara 8', Kamara 11', Higuain 52', Nagbe 80'. The match is 2-2 after ninety minutes. The Timbers score the finishing touch off the head of Nat Borchers in a set piece situation in extra time. Nobody suggests that Caleb Porter should be fired AT LEAST for another eight months. Columbus fans turn their attentions to the Ohio State Buckeyes football team, only to realize that they aren't winning any titles this year, either. Ted Cruz insists that soccer in America is just a ruse to implement Sharia Law. Justin Meram pens an open letter to Cruz that receives international attention. Marc Maron will host Saturday Night Live with musical guest Freddie Gibbs. Fools will fall in love. Major League Soccer will begin operating marijuana dispensaries in order to get a jump-start on new revenue streams that will be necessary once there are no more expansion teams to pay exorbitant one-time fees. Nat Borchers's beard will mount a campaign for mayor. Jesus will return to earth just before Christmas and announce that he "actually kinda liked" Caddyshack 2. The Beautiful Game will remain precisely that.