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MLS CUP 2015: Columbus Crew vs. Portland Timbers preview

This is the big one. Here's everything you need to know about Sunday's title fight in the Massive City!

Beard don't lie.
Beard don't lie.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

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.
Well, that stands to reason! But... the list goes on:
  • DC United, Montreal, New England.
Oh. Ouch. But there's more:
  • Houston, Orlando City, New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago.
Just... I mean, just... HOW?

Indeed, the 41 goals bagged by the Timbers in the regular season were tied for the third-worst tally in MLS. From top to bottom, they only outscored Real Salt Lake (38) and Colorado (33).

And they're playing for the championship Sunday afternoon in Columbus.

The Trees got hot at just the right time. They've scored nine goals in five playoff games, even including a 0-0 draw against Vancouver. They haven't lost a single game in two months, during which they've posted six wins and two draws.

Unfortunately for Caleb Porter's team, their Sunday hosts score goals like Aziz Ansari drinks Martinelli's apple juice: A LOT.


The Big One is on the line. This is it. Forget about those two-legged ties;  one of these belligerents is leaving the MAPFRE with all the hardware. With that in mind, we're diving in head-first.

THE COMBATANTS

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:

Way out in TimberLand, check out what Stumptown Footy has on tap:

HRB'S PREDICTION

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.