MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER IS BACK, BABY!!
The Portland Timbers (0-0-0, 0 pts, 0th West) will open their 2020 MLS Regular Season at home for the first time in two years against Minnesota United FC (0-0-0, 0 pts, 0th West) on Sunday. Of course, Portland is no stranger to hosting the Loons in season openers at Providence Park—but we’ll get to that later.
Portland Timbers vs Minnesota United FC
MLS Regular Season match (Week 1)
Providence Park in Portland, OR
Sunday, March 1st, 2020 at 4:30pm PT
How to Watch:
Fox Sports 1 (DirecTV 219, Xfinity 723, streaming on foxsportsgo.com or Fox Sports App with TV login)
What to Expect Tactically
The Timbers and Loons most recently met in the preseason, where the Loons won 4-2 at Providence Park. Since it was preseason, nothing was concrete, but what we do know is that Adrian Heath will use the same 4-2-3-1 and that it will probably look like this (for more details, check out Athletic beat writer Jeff Rueter):
Players to Watch:
Jan Gregus is the best player for the Loons. The playmaking DP commands the midfield, and he’s one of my favorite non-Timbers to watch in MLS. (Plus, he’s Slovak!)
Timbers fans will be familiar with former Sounder Ozzie Alonso for all the wrong reasons, but he’s still plugging holes in defensive midfield.
Minnesota often swap wingers throughout the match, and #10 Kevin Molino will provide plenty of disruption to Portland’s questionable back line.
That’s about as far as I’m gonna go tactically, because we haven’t seen these teams play competitively yet and I was unable to watch any preseason matches from outside the local broadcast range.
The Timbers’ lineup is fairly predictable, with the only question coming up top. Will Giovanni Savarese go with new almost-DP Felipe Mora as a starter, like he did in the preseason? Or will new DP Jaroslaw Niezgoda be ready to go?
Jarek Niezgoda is expected to begin full training with @TimbersFC as of tomorrow. Club has been conservative with his return after his ablation procedure. Has been working on his own, to this point, during his time on the field. #rctid #mls
— Richard Farley (@richardfarley) February 18, 2020
If I had to bet on it, I’d go with Mora. If nothing else, he’s had more time to get acquainted with the squad.
I’m most excited to see the new guys in action—Yimmi Chará on the wing, Dario Zuparic on the back line, and Mora/Niezgoda up top. Out of these, I’m most excited to see Yimmi. It’s been a really, really, really long time since Portland have had a consistent option on the right wing.
Portland and Minnesota developed a teeny tiny rivalry last season, thanks in part to two heated matches in a half-week—one in MLS and one as a US Open Cup match. Both were single-goal victories by Minnesota.
Most Memorable Matchups
Minnesota’s meeting with the Timbers was also the Loons’ first ever MLS match, in 2017. It didn’t go so well for them. Portland won by a score of 5-1, completing the first half of what would become the worst two-game start in MLS history (MNUFC conceded six goals to Atlanta in Week 2).
Later that year, the Loons got their revenge with a 3-2 home victory. You may remember it as the game of karate kicks, either for the Christian Ramirez goal or the double red card affair.
The final game I’d like to revisit is that other season-opening victory against Minnesota, in 2018. This one was more competitive than the year before, with a 3-2 Timbers victory led by an Alvas Powell goal and assist in the first 23 minutes.
Odds and Prediction
Portland -115 / Draw +270 / Minnesota +285 (via Bovada)
Portland are the favorites due to home-field advantage, and I wouldn’t bet against the Timbers in home openers: they’ve only lost one (against LAFC last year) since joining MLS. This will be the final match of opening week, so something weird is bound to happen.
Prediction: 2-1 Timbers, and Diego Valeri scores his sixth total goal in home openers!