After two long legs of conference final matches, the Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup final has been set. Atlanta United, the kings of the Eastern Conference, will face off against the Portland Timbers, the Western Conference champions.
The conference finals were nothing short of entertaining. In the Eastern Conference final, Atlanta traveled away to New Jersey to face the New York Red Bulls in the second leg. Atlanta went into this game knowing very well that despite the convincing 3-0 against the Red Bulls a few days prior, the team still had plenty of work to do before claiming the title of Eastern Conference Champions. Even though Atlanta would have been able to advance on a 0-0 draw, playing the second leg away was not going to be easy.
Atlanta were able to keep the Red Bull’s attack at bay for the majority of the game, until the New York side finally broke through, with defender Tim Parker scoring in the 90+4’ minute to make the score 1-0 to the Red Bulls, but 3-1 on aggregate. Tata Martino’s team had a clear plan to sit back and now allow the Red Bulls any space to get in and break the defense. Both teams defended well on this night, but despite New York scoring off a corner kick in the 79th minute, it was disallowed and ultimately Atlanta Triumphed. Atlanta would go on to advance to the side’s first ever MLS Cup Final.
The Western Conference Final was a much different story. After a scoreless first leg in Portland, the Timbers and Sporting Kansas City ended up in Kansas City for the second leg, with everything on the line for both teams. Both teams wanted desperately to win and advance to the MLS Cup final, and both teams needed to do everything in order to achieve not only the Western Conference, but a path to the MLS Cup final. Ultimately, on a very cold night at Children’s Mercy Park, and despite the unrelenting and unwavering support of the Blue Cauldron, the Portland Timbers shocked Sporting Kansas after beating them 3-2 to become Western Conference champions.
Sporting Kansas City looked as if the team had gained the advantage, after Daniel Salloi scored 20 minutes in to make it 1-0 to Kansas City. The score would remain there for the first half, with tempers starting to flair and another 45 minutes waiting for both teams.
Portland rebounded in the second half, becoming more dominant and edged Sporting Kansas City in the 52nd minute after Sebastian Blanco scored a sensational goal to make the score 1-1, with Portland leading on away goals. Captain and reigning MLS MVP Diego Valeri would score in the 62nd minute, adding to Sporting Kansas City’s misery and making the scoreline 2-1 to Portland. Kansas City did not give up though, as substitute Gerso Fernandes scored in the 81st minute, making the scoreline 2-2, but ultimately meaning that Portland still lead on away goals. Sporting Kansas City tried as much as possible, but despite an impressive 10 minutes of extra time, the team’s fate was sealed as Diego Valeri scored in the 99th minute, giving Sporting Kansas City the final blow to win the Western Conference 3-2 on aggregate.
It was a wild match, and this MLS Cup final between Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers looks to be one of the most entertaining finals in recent history. The final will be played on December 8, 2018 at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, and needless to say, it’s going to be one hell of a final.
Luke Stergiou can be contacted at email@example.com