Columbus, Portland set for unlikely MLS Cup clash

Fri Dec 4, 2015 1:18pm EST
 
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(Reuters) - The 2015 MLS Cup final may lack the star power of recent championship deciders but the Columbus Crew and Portland Timbers will still bring an attacking mindset to what looks to be a compelling matchup.

Columbus and Portland impressively knocked off the top seeds in their conference by clinging to advantages on the road versus the New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas, respectively, to set up a matchup few could have predicted when the season began in March.

While Sunday's contest is almost too close to call since neither team boasts big-name players as some other Major League Soccer clubs do, the Crew may possess a slight edge since they have home advantage and are fully fit.

Columbus, a charter franchise of MLS who clinched their first championship in 2008, earned a shot at winning a second title with a hard-fought 2-1 aggregate win over the Eastern Conference's top-seeded New York Red Bulls.

The Crew's Sierra Leone-born striker Kei Kamara, who fell just short of earning the MLS Golden Boot award, is now looking to cap a career year by landing the coveted team trophy.

The five-year-old Portland franchise, meanwhile, have been on a scorching run since late in the regular season and advanced to their first MLS Cup after a 5-3 aggregate-score win in the two-leg Western Conference Championship.

"When we started the year, we wanted to get into the playoffs and win a trophy," said Timbers head coach Caleb Porter. "That was the goal, and here we are. We've won one, and now we want to win the big one. So it's very satisfying."

The winner of Sunday's game will also earn a berth in the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League, the regional competition that pits MLS clubs against the top Mexican, Central American and Caribbean teams.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)

 
Columbus Crew forward Kei Kamara (23) and New York Red Bulls defender Ronald Zubar (23) in action during the second half of leg two of the Eastern Conference championship at Red Bull Arena.  Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports