Timbers need a home win against Nashville

by Kevin Nesgoda

Photo by Ray Terrill  /  CC BY-SA 2.0

The Portland Timbers (0-0d-1, 0 pts, 12th in West) will host MLS expansion side Nashville SC (0-0-1, 0 pts, 11th in West) at home this Sunday.

Nashville played their first MLS match at home last week against Atlanta United, where they were defeated 2-1 despite the ACL injury to Atlanta star Josef Martinez.


Portland Timbers vs Nashville SC


MLS Regular Season match (Week 2)


Providence Park in Portland, OR


Sunday, March 8th, 2020 at 4:00pm PT

How to Watch:

ESPN (DirecTV 206, Xfinity 735, streaming on watchespn.com or ESPN App with TV login)

This is as must-win as it gets in a March non-rivalry match. [Established club who spent a lot of offseason money] should be beating [new MLS expansion team] at home, even after a crushing loss versus Minnesota last week.

What to Expect Tactically


Here is Nashville’s lineup from last week. Lots of MLS experience, and I expect them to learn quickly from mistakes that were made against Atlanta.


Players to Watch

  • Walker Zimmerman is coming off a stellar Best-XI season at LAFC. He’s got 12 U.S. Men’s National Team caps, too, if you’re into that kind of thing.

  • David Accam is always dangerous on the right wing, even though he didn’t have a great performance last week against Atlanta.

  • Hany Mukhtar is Nashville’s playmaker. He also had a sub-par match against ATL, though, conceding possession 18 times.

Nashville were set off to a rocky start less than 10 minutes into their first MLS season. Atlanta’s Ezequiel Barco scored in the ninth minute with a perfectly-placed strike from long distance. I want to focus on that goal to see what went wrong for Nashville.

This goal is a perfect example of how good Atlanta are at exploiting an opponent’s mistakes. First, it was Randall Leal‘s sloppy press on Atlanta defender Franco Escobar, who played a one-two with Martinez.

This is MLS midfield play at its best—the threat of Martinez (with his back to goal and firmly in the midfield) draws the attention of three Nashville players (Dax McCarty, Anibal Godoy, and Walker Zimmerman).


This opens up a pocket of space for Barco to receive the ball. Zimmerman, caught out of position after pressuring Martinez, now has to sprint back, as does the right back Eric Miller.


After the ball goes through Miller’s legs, Barco *could* have played this out wide to his left wing back, but the space allowed by Zimmerman is enough for him to cut inside and release a laser into the bottom corner.


This goal is the result of a series of basic defensive mistakes by Nashville, typical of an expansion side.

Zimmerman redeemed himself with a goal off a long set piece 20 minutes later, but Nashville failed to clear a corner in the 38th minute and Hyndman covered himself in glory with an impeccable control-and-volley.

Nashville should not be overlooked, though. They competed with Atlanta throughout the match, and this very easily could have been a draw or even a win for the MLS newcomers. Their concessions came from dumb mistakes and their attacks produced genuine chances.


Speaking of defensive mistakes, Portland’s back line was downright awful in a 3-1 loss to Minnesota last week. I would target a couple weak chemistry links between Portland’s back four if I could, but the reality is that all of them need to get on the same page. What I can derive from Minnesota’s goals are that (1) Jorge Villafaña and Jorge Moreira cannot afford to both push up at the same time, (2) all four defenders need to communicate, and (3) the individual marking needs to improve… drastically.

Portland’s attack is still a work in progress, but the short story is that Yimmi Chará needs to be a winger, everyone needs to be more active in buildup play, and Felipe Mora is better than some people’s attitudes are indicating. He will score a lot of goals this season if the first two conditions are met.

TL;DR: Both these teams are looking to establish coherence amongst their defenses.


Portland’s lineup will probably look the same as last week’s. There’s not really anything to change; the players just need to execute better.

(No history section this week because, well, there isn’t any history.)

Odds and Prediction

Portland -200 / Draw +330 / Nashville +500

I hate to say it, but I don’t like think these lines are accurate at all. Maybe I’m just pessimistic. Nashville will surprise us with their quality. If I were betting on this, I’d take the over 3 goals at +110, simply because both teams are still struggling defensively and have a lot of offensive firepower.

Prediction: A 2-2 draw that feels a lot better than it really was.

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