United FC-Timbers Preview
Minnesota United head coach Adrian Heath pointed to the importance of fans as his team prepare to travel to Portland Timbers, joined by numerous supporters on their flight.
Minnesota lost their first four games of the season, indicating that Minnesota may be near the bottom of the standings come the eve of Decision Day.
However, a mid-season turnaround under Heath has changed the fortunes of the visitors - who ended in fifth - meaning they next travel to Providence Park, where Loons fans will share the same chartered flight as the squad.
"It reminds you who you're playing for, who you're representing," Heath said. "Never let the lads forget who they play for and their responsibilities to the people.
"My dad used to take me to the games and say to me, 'When you're a player, you have an obligation to give everything you've got for the people who actually pay to go and watch you play.
"Sometimes crowds can influence players or sometimes a player has to influence the crowd."
The Timbers finished the regular season in fourth in the Western Conference, winning their final three matches to secure a home tie for the first time since 2018.
Having qualified for the last five MLS Cup Playoffs campaigns, Portland head coach Giovanni Savarese knows what is required of his side and credited the faith of general manager Gavin Wilkinson for their success so far.
"We could never have achieved this if we didn't have the group that we have," Savarese said.
"We have a great environment. We trust each other. We have an unbelievable group here that does work every day and he's with us.
"And (Wilkinson) wanted to make sure that the players also felt the support from on top and know that there's no doubt that this group is going to continue to move forward strong."
Portland Timbers - Diego Valeri
Diego Valeri has five goals in his career versus Minnesota, but he has only scored twice this year for the Timbers.
Minnesota United - Emanuel Reynoso
Minnesota will hope for a repeat of Emanuel Reynoso's brilliant 2020 postseason, where he was involved in all eight Loons goals (one goal, seven assists). Reynoso's seven assists in last season's playoffs set an MLS record for a single postseason.
●Minnesota United won both meetings between the sides this season and three straight overall. This is the ninth instance of a team winning three straight matches against the Timbers in MLS (regular season & playoffs), though no team has done so in four straight.
●The Timbers have won only three of their nine home playoff matches (D4 L2, including W1 L1 in shoot-outs). Those matches have featured plenty of drama, however, as only one of the nine was decided by more than one goal (3-1 win over FC Dallas in 2015 first round).
●Portland won 10 of its last 14 matches (D1 L3) to earn a home playoff match, collecting an MLS-high 31 points since the last weekend of August, five more than any other team in that time. Portland set club MLS records for regular season wins (17) and points (55) in 2021.
●Minnesota United's victory at Portland on June 26 was one of just three away wins for the Loons all season, with the others coming in Houston and Austin. In fact, Minnesota collected only one point in its other seven away matches against playoff teams this season (excluding draw vs Vancouver in Sandy, UT), also drawing at Real Salt Lake in May.
●Felipe Mora (11 goals) and Dairon Asprilla (10) led the Timbers in scoring this season. Excluding 2020, it was the fifth straight season the Timbers have had at least two 10-goal scorers, with seven different players doing so in that time (J. Ebobisse, B. Fernández in 2019, D. Valeri, S. Blanco in 2018 and D. Valeri and F. Adi in 2017 and 2016).
Updated November 20, 2021