MLS

Timbers vs Real Salt Lake, 2021 MLS conference finals: possible line-ups; injuries and suspensions

Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake meet in the Western Conference final on Saturday, with the winner advancing to this month's MLS Cup final.

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Timbers vs Real Salt Lake, 2021 MLS conference finals: possible line-up, injuries and suspensions
Isaiah J. Downing USA TODAY Sports

Portland Timbers host Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference final at Providence Park on Saturday night (6:30pm ET), with a place in the MLS Cup final, on 11 December against either Philadelphia Union or New York City FC, at stake.

Timbers the best regular-season team left in MLS playoffs

Timbers, who qualified for the MLS playoffs with a fourth-placed regular-season finish, have reached the fourth conference finals in their history by beating Minnesota United 3-1 in the first round of the postseason and following that up with a last-gasp victory over Colorado Rapids in the semi-finals, Larrys Mabiala's 90th-minute goal earning a 1-0 win.

Giovanni Savarese’s men are currently on a run of five straight wins - a sequence that includes a 3-1 triumph away to RSL a month ago - and will host the MLS Cup final should they get there, as they’re now the highest-ranked regular-season team left in the 2021 playoffs.

RSL in sight of MLS Cup final after squeaking into playoffs

As for Salt Lake - who, like Portland, have won one MLS championship in their history - they have progressed to within one game of the league decider after squeezing into the playoffs on Decision Day, Damir Kreilach’s stoppage-time winner against Sporting Kansas City earning them the seventh and final postseason spot in the West.

RSL then eliminated Seattle Sounders on penalties in the first round of the playoffs, before another time-added-on goal against Kansas City - this time by Bobby Wood - completed a 2-1 come-from-behind victory in the conference semi-finals.

Salt Lake have been on the losing side in their last three games against Portland, but have won all three of the sides’ previous playoff meetings. Both teams are seeking their third ever appearance in the MLS Cup final.

Real Salt Lake's players celebrate Bobby Wood's last-gasp winner over Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference semi-finals.

Portland Timbers vs Real Salt Lake: team news

For Portland Timbers, the major team news is that Sebastián Blanco is in contention to play, despite suffering a hamstring injury in the win over Colorado Rapids. "Seba is a very competitive player and person," Portland head coach Savarese said on Thursday. "He’s making big leaps, pulling off miracles to try and be ready for this game."

However, the suspended Dairon Asprilla misses out for the hosts after being sent off in stoppage time against Colorado. Ismaila Jome, Jeff Attinella, Andy Polo, Hunter Sulte and Eryk Williamson are all out injured.

Real Salt Lake are without Everton Luiz, who is suspended for Saturday’s game after being booked in the wins over Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City, but captain Albert Rusnak has returned to availability after missing both postseason games so far with covid-19. Zack Farnsworth is out with a knee injury.

Portland Timbers vs Real Salt Lake: possible line-ups

Portland Timbers: Clark, Van Rankin, Mabiala, Zuparic, Bravo, D. Chara, Paredes, Y. Chara, Blanco, Moreno, Niezgoda

Real Salt Lake: Ochoa, Herrera, Glad, Silva, Brody, Chang, Ruiz, Rusnak, Kreilach, J. Menéndez, Rubin