Timbers regroup for Western test against Quakes

by Kevin Nesgoda

[Image by Portland Timbers via MLS]

[Image by Portland Timbers via MLS]

Coming off a disheartening loss to arch-rival Seattle on Sunday night; the Portland Timbers will regroup to face the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday, August 26th, 2020 at 7:30pm PT at Earthquakes Stadium in San Jose. The match will be broadcast on Fox 12 Plus (KPDX) locally and on ESPN+ for out-of-market viewers.

About last weekend…

While Portland’s 3-0 loss to the Sounders was a brutal scoreline, the match was much closer than indicated. Both sides struggled to take control of the game until Raul Ruidiaz’ breakthrough in the 72nd minute. In his postgame interview, Chris Duvall was asked what changed when the teams came out in the second half. His response: “Nothing. We were the better team in the first half.”

Once they scored a goal, it kind of deflated us…that was kind of the end of the story.

Couldn’t have said it any better myself, Chris.

As for Duvall’s on-field play, his enormous strike in the 5th minute was called back for Eryk Williamson being offside. That momentum would have certainly inspired better play than what we ended up getting from the Timbers.

But enough about last game. We all watched it. We all want to get past it. So do the players, who have a quick turnaround to face an intriguing opponent in San Jose.

San Jose? Who are they?

The Earthquakes will be the last team to play an MLS match following the conclusion of the MLS is Back Tournament. They played well in said tournament, earning seven points from their group with Vancouver, Seattle, and Chicago. The Quakes were swiftly eliminated by Minnesota United FC in the Round of 16, though, losing 4-1.

Matias Almeyda got his first win as Head Coach of the Quakes in a 3-0 thrashing of the Timbers last year. In case you purged that from your memory; it was the match where Jeff Attinella made 10 saves, Portland earned their fourth straight loss in their first five games, and Foster Langsdorf saw first-team minutes. Portland exacted revenge by beating the Quakes on Decision Day 2019 to grab a playoff spot.

But these two teams are at very different places now. The Timbers, while COVID Cup Champions, were not up to snuff against Seattle.

What do the Timbers need to do to win?

While we haven’t seen San Jose since the end of the MLSiBT, we know what to expect from them. No match is easy when Almeyda’s man-marking system is working near optimal strength. Portland’s awareness will be key to getting three points; Portland can’t afford to switch off when San Jose have the ball.

The other factor I’m looking for is motivation. Portland was drained of life after that Ruidiaz goal with 20 minutes still left to play. Whether it’s an Orlando hangover or depletion of physical energy, Portland need to keep fighting for points when their backs are up against a wall. They did it fine in the MLSiBT, now it’s time to do so in the matches that really count.

Speaking of matches counting: The Timbers’ knockout round wins were cute, but they’re still only fourth in the Western Conference.

Standings provided by SofaScore LiveScore

Expectations and Predictions

Regardless of how the Timbers might do it, a result is not expected, but wholly necessary. Fans and analysts alike will be eager to see how Portland stack up to a team that has a unique and clear identity.

Also worth mentioning: Portland are the clear underdogs. San Jose is +105 to win, +255 to draw, and +235 to lose.

If the Timbers can grab the first goal and then not just keep their foot on the gas, but push down on it; I will be satisfied. If this happens, I can see a 2-0 victory. Otherwise, I could see an exhausted Portland and seldom-tested San Jose battle to a low-scoring or scoreless draw.

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