We are once again in a Western Conference Final, and once (well, twice) again this season, we are facing Portland Timbers - a side bereft of institutional playoff experience, but one with players with some degree of it.
And once again this season, we'll be without Alvaro Saborio as we venture forward. You'd think by now that it could be something we're used to, but we still struggle to find our optimal lineup without him in the side. We're still left wondering whether Devon Sandoval, the most natural selection as a replacement, is the right option, or if taking a different approach featuring two strikers a bit more slight is preferred. And I suppose now is the time that we wish we had answers, but if we don't have them by now, we won't have them until next season at best.
But we do get a chance to see once again what works best. Against a hefty Portland Timbers back line, two players without remarkable strength and hold-up ability might find themselves marked out of the game - but they may likewise find themselves moving around more and opening options for players in deeper positions. With two midfield-heavy sides, getting through the molasses will take tremendous ability on the ball.
Breaking out of that molasses will be our highest priority. With the home leg first, a positive result is more than just encouraged - it's necessary. The second leg in Portland will be a difficult one, and as we've so recently seen, one goal at home isn't even enough most of the time.
This isn't to say, of course, that it would be an abject failure if we don't score two, three, or four goals. A thumping win is the desired result, but the minimum result is simply not losing. We are, at minimum, a side that can do that. And against a Caleb Porter-led side has never been in the playoffs, the impetus and expectation is firmly on us.
Whatever happens, it won't be over for another two weeks. That rest may be just enough to reclaim the fitness of Alvaro Saborio and get our side raring to go.