Santiago Moreno (30) takes off his jersey as he celebrates his goal. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
Regardless of who wins the Eastern Conference on Sunday, the MLS Cup will be played in Portland, Ore. next Saturday.
The Portland Timbers made sure of that, recording a 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference final of the MLS Cup Playoffs on Saturday night.
Goals by Felipe Mora and Santiago Moreno paced the hosts over 10-man RSL on a rainy night at Providence Park.
Goalkeeper Steve Clark made several vital saves to keep the Cinderella RSL squad off the scoreboard en route to his second shutout of the playoffs.
The Timbers will play the winner of Sunday’s match between New York City FC and Philadelphia Union in Chester, Pa. The Portland win also meant there was no chance of the game being played at Yankee Stadium, which does not have the proper dimensions for a championship soccer match and sparing the league much embarrassment.
The win meant that the Timbers and head coach Giovanni Savarese advanced to the league’s championship game for the second time in four years. In 2018, Portland lost at Atlanta United in the final.
Savarese guided the Cosmos to North American Soccer League titles in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
“Exciting day,” Savarese said. “Being able to play this game here, being able to win this trophy here with a performance against a good very good team, I thought the guys today were were fantastic. Very proud of them.
“And now we have to continue to work because now we are in MLS Cup. One more. So we have to make sure that we concentrate what’s going but we’re going to enjoy this today.”
RSL played the final 11 minutes of the match after he was booked for his second yellow card.
With the match barely five minutes old, Portland grabbed the lead, taking advantage of an off-balance clearance by defender Aaron Herrera. Herrera tried to poke the ball out of harm’s way, but it went to Mora, who slipped the ball past goalkeeper David Ochoa.
— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) December 5, 2021
Dario Zuparic started the scoring sequence with a long pass out of the back to Santiago Moreno, who was making just his fourth start of the season for Portland. Moreno trapped the ball, and embarked on a run before rifling a shot from distance he powered off the left post.
The ball hit the back of Ochoa and bounded into the net for a two-goal advantage in the 61st minute. Moreno was slapped with a yellow card for an excessive celebration.
“We felt we were in control, but when there is only one goal difference it is always complicated,” Savarese said. “That goal gave us the oxygen that we needed to stay a little calmer.”