Portland Timbers plan to continue strategy of “attacking and threatening the opponent” in latest road test

Sunday’s Leg 2 matchup of their Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals series at BC Place (10 pm ET, FS1 in US, TSN/RDS in Canada)

BEAVERTON, Ore. – From an impartial viewpoint, it would be hard to say which team has the advantage after a scoreless draw in the first leg of a two-leg playoff series.

On one hand, the home team in leg one – in this case the Portland Timbers – didn’t concede an all-important away goal, used as the first tiebreaker. On the other hand, the higher seed – in this case the Vancouver Whitecaps – are able to play the decisive leg on their home ground.

From a partial standpoint, the Timbers have the Whitecaps right where they want them.

“We know if we score the first goal, they need two. And we’re unbeaten when we score the first goal. If they score the first goal, then all we need to do is level it,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said after a Friday training session at the team facility in preparation for Sunday’s Leg 2 matchup of their Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals series at BC Place (10 pm ET, FS1 in US, TSN/RDS in Canada). “If we level it, we’re through. So we’ll play to win, we’ll play to score goals, we’ll play aggressive, but we’ll also be smart knowing that if the game doesn’t go the way we want it to go that we can win with a 1-1 or 2-2 draw as well.”

Also buoying Portland’s confidence – following their 0-0 draw last weekend with the Whitecaps at Providence Park – is their stellar road form. The Timbers have won their last three road games – two against playoff teams – by a combined 8-3 score. In all, the Timbers picked up seven wins on the road this season, tied with Vancouver for the most in the league.

“We’ve won those last three games on the road by being aggressive and not really playing a reactive game,” Porter said. “… We won those three game by being aggressive and getting on the ball and attacking and threatening the opponent and pressing at the right times. We also won those games because we were organized and smart and managing our shape defensively. So it’s no different [against Vancouver].”

And just as Portland – who have scored 12 goals in five games since switching to a more attack-orientated 4-3-3 formation – plan to be aggressive in the second leg, they expect the same from Vancouver. Porter also expects Pedro Morales, Vancouver’s banged up yet dynamic midfielder, to start after coming on late in the second half in the first leg in the hopes of sparking a stagnant Whitecaps attack that has scored just four goals in their last five games, of which they are winless in four.

“It definitely makes it interesting with that away goal because if we get that first goal, obviously we’re in a great position,” Timbers center back Nat Borchers said. “Even if they score on us first, we get the equalizer and we have the upper hand. So definitely goals are going to change this game, so it’s going to be interesting to see what happens.”

Yet another positive for Portland is the fact that defensive midfielder Diego Chara, who has missed Portland’s two playoff games with a sprained foot tendon, trained this week and is likely to be available. The same goes for goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey, who missed the first leg vs. Vancouver due to illness.

“I think the key in a second leg is adjustments, looking at the last game and understanding what we need to do,” Porter said. “… And I think they’ll look to make a few as well. But at this point we don’t want to change much either. We’re in a good run.”

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