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MONDAY MLS PLAYOFF PREVIEW/Portland opens MLS Cup push with first of two games against Houston

The Portland Timbers begin what they hope will be a five-match journey on Monday when they play the first match in a two-leg playoff series with the Houston Dynamo.

The game at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston starts at 6:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.

The second game of the total-goals MLS Western Conference semifinal will be played Nov. 5 at Providence Park.

The team with the most goals after two games advances to face either Seattle or Vancouver in the Western Conference finals series.

Portland has never won at Houston (three draws, three losses) but did get a 2-2 draw there in July.

The Timbers (60 goals) and Dynamo (57) were the top two scoring teams in the Western Conference during the regular season.

Houston is unbeaten in seven matches (4-0-3), most recently Thursday's 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City in the knockout round. That match went 30 extra minutes, with Alberth Ellis scoring the winner for Houston.

This is a matchup where home field could be a big deal. The Dynamo were 12-1-4 at home this season but only 1-9-7 on the road. The Timbers were 11-2-4 at home and 4-9-4 on the road — the second best road mark among Western Conference playoff teams.

The first tiebreaker is away goals, but given Portland's dominance at Providence Park a draw — even a scoreless one — would seem to favor the Timbers.

"If you can get a goal that's like two goals," coach Caleb Porter said. "We're a team that can score goals. I don't think you'll see us going and sitting back on the road.

"We'll be smart with how we approach it, but we're going to go in there trying to get goals. We'll get goals the right way. We're not going to be all opened up or naieve. I think the best thing to do is go and get goals that first leg. Get at least a goal. A 1-1 draw or a 2-1 win will set up good things for you the next leg."

Portland has never met Houston in the playoffs. The Timbers have won both of their previous conference semifinal series, topping Seattle in 2013 and Vancouver in 2015 on their way to the MLS Cup championship.

MLS CUP PLAYOFFS

Western Conference semifinals

Portland vs. Houston

Leg 1 — 6:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at BBVA Compass Playoffs (FS1)

Leg 2 — Time TBD, Nov. 5 at Providence Park (TV TBD)

Seattle vs. Vancouver

Leg 1 — Seattle 0, Vancouver 0

Leg 2 — Vancouver at Seattle, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2 (FS1)

Eastern Conference semifinals

Toronto vs. New York Red Bulls

Leg 1 — Toronto FC at Red Bulls, 4 p.m. Monday (FS1)

Leg 2 — Red Bulls at Toronto FC, noon Nov. 5 (ESPN)

New York City FC vs. Columbus

Leg 1 — New York City at Columbus, 5 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN)

Leg 2 — Columbus at New York City FC, time TBD on Nov. 5 (TV TBD)

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