The Vancouver Whitecaps will host the Portland Timbers in an MLS Regular Season match at Providence Park this Sunday, September 27th at 7pm PT. The match will be broadcast on ROOT Sports locally and ESPN+ nationally.
Yes, you read that right: Vancouver are the home side in Portland against Portland. The Whitecaps will play a result of Canada’s closed-border policy due to COVID-19.
Michael Martinez—CascadiaSN’s Whitecaps writer—and Charlie Folkstead—CascadiaSN’s Timbers writer—will go back and forth to give you a good picture of what’s going on with both squads.
Charlie: Well, Michael, I think it’s safe to say that this week’s match pits two teams heading in very different directions after Portland’s 1-0 win over Seattle and Vancouver’s 6-0 loss to LAFC. I guess my first question is an obvious one: What went wrong for the Whitecaps against LAFC?
Michael: I couldn’t agree with you more. It Is very clear how far and away these teams are. Regarding the 6-0 bashing on Wednesday? To be honest Charlie, there’s a lot that went wrong. The biggest thing was our defensive shape, or lack there of. That was evident even from kick off. And we’re the ones who started it! The match was over within 14 minutes. It was a long night for sure.
Now I’ve got a question for you. With the Timbers beating fellow Cascadia rivals, the Sounders, what worked? Cause it felt like a fairly even match to me.
Charlie: Even though Portland conceded 19 shots to Seattle, Portland’s defense showed significant improvement. Of those 19 shots, only six were on target. There were undoubtedly a handful of scary moments, but a shutout is still a huge accomplishment for a team that hadn’t had one since before the shutdown. As Giovanni Savarese explained in his postgame presser, Portland were much more organized coming out of the break, yet another sign of positivity. They also did this without first-choice center back Larrys Mabiala in the starting XI.
We can’t discuss what went right without mentioning the goal. Jeremy Ebobisse’s awareness to pick out Yimmi Chará in stride was fantastic, and a side of his game we might not see enough of. It wasn’t Portland’s only quality chance to score, either.
Portland’s goal-scoring threats can come from any of their regular forwards (Jebo, Jarosław Niezgoda, or Felipe Mora), Yimmi has scored in his last three matches, and we know what Diego Valeri can do. So tell me, who are the guys that might threaten Steve Clark’s goal for Vancouver?
Michael: See this is what scares me most about the Timbers. They will sit back then strike when they need to. Your strikers are very clinical and always make an impact. Jebo and Chará are ones to look out for for sure.
When it comes to our striking options, Clark is going to go up against Cascadia legend Fredy Montero, Lucas Cavallini, and weirdly enough our midfielder Owusu. Montero has been in great form since his return to the team not even two weeks ago. He also loves to score against Portland. In his 9 career matches against them, he has 6 goals and two assists. While the numbers are too impressive, it’s his impact on the match. He brings a certain intensity and brings up the rest of the team.
Don’t forget about Cava, though. Vancouver’s DP striker, while only having two goals to his name in MLS, always draws defenders to him opening up the space for others to run through.
Owusu has the tendency to make those runs into the box and makes himself available for the pass and shot. He had a brilliant assist to Montero in the Montreal win a week ago. He has great positioning, it’s just getting the ball up in the final third that’s going to be the problem.
Since we have a problem with holding onto the ball and creating chances for ourselves, what could be a potential problem for the Timbers going into Sunday?
Charlie: Based on their last few performances, the Timbers strike me as a team with no glaring weaknesses at the moment. I guess I would boil their problems down to inconsistency and squad rotation. It’s also worth noting that prior to dropping points in successive matches against LAFC and San Jose last week, Savarese’s men were training on a futsal field due to the hazardous air quality in Portland. This was frequently cited as an issue for Gio and the squad leading up to these matches.
The back line is the obvious scapegoat for any potential problems, but Wednesday’s shutout against the best team in the West was encouraging.
Speaking of the standings, Vancouver are still only three points out of the playoffs. If there was ever a time to be a low playoff seed (sans fans), it’s now. So I have a pair of questions for you, Michael: Do you think the Caps can navigate their way into the playoffs? Following that, do you think they will?
Michael: The thing with the Whitecaps is staying consistent. They won two in a row against Montreal and Real Salt Lake, then ranked against LAFC. That’s what it really boils down to. If they can find some sort mid season form. They can get there. As long as they pull off 7 points from the next 5 matches.
The schedule ahead is scary for the Whitecaps as we’re playing the best teams in the west. Minute San Jose of course. They don’t count. Realistically though? I don’t know if they ca n make it in. I think they’ll lose out on goal differential. There is not enough creativity in the midfield to get those goals or hell, make plays in the final third. I hope they surprise me, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
My last question is a two parter for you. What lineup do you think we’ll see from the Timbers? And what is your predicted score line?
Charlie: After Sunday’s match, Portland finally have five days of rest before their next match against Colorado. I’m hoping to see a full-strength squad from Gio, although you never truly know what he’s got planned for lineups.
This is my best guess as to what Portland’s starting XI will look like.
Let’s start at the back. I thought Larrys Mabiala might crack the starting lineup midweek after coming back from injury, but he didn’t come on until stoppage time.
First-choice right back Chris Duvall might make an appearance, but I expect Bonilla to be the starter.
In the midfield; Diego Chará is Diego Chará, Diego Valeri is Diego Valeri, and Eryk Williamson has solidified his spot as the second holding midfielder alongside the former. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Paredes or another rotation player here.
Up top, Yimmi Chará has been prolific, Ebobisse showed some new flair with his assist, and Niezgoda has been preferred at central striker recently. I also expect to see Felipe Mora as a substitute at some point.
As for the final result, I have a hunch that 3-1 will be the correct scoreline in a Timbers win. I just have a hard time believing the Whitecaps will be able to stop Portland from scoring, especially if the game opens up.
What about you? What are your Whitecaps lineup and score predictions?
Michael: We have not had a fair amount of rest since our last match was on Wednesday. But we also had to travel from LA back to Portland (our temporary home) then back to training the next few days. The team is still getting used to their new digs here in Portland, but they seem to be getting used to it.
As far as I know, while everyone travelled with the team, we are still missing our starting keeper of late Hasal and starting midfielder, Teibert. Both out due to medical reasons. I expect Marc dos Santos to stick with what he knows and what the team has been playing with.
This is what I am hoping to see from the Whitecaps tomorrow. This is arguably their strongest lineup minus our keeper. Who is still missing with an injury until the end of the year.
The defense is generally the same as it has been all year, except for Godoy. He was out injured for a long while, but having him and Vesel leading the backline would be crucial in dealing with Portland’s attack. Cornelius, who is a young Canadian international, has been starting these last few matches. He has been serviceable, but I do not think he is quite ready to be starting out week by week.
Our midfield has been the main struggle ALL YEAR. We lost our DP at the end of the MLS is Back tournament and have not found a replacement. I truly believe that Bikel, can play that destroyer number 8 role. He has played that in his last couple matches back and he can hold that spot down. He’s no Chara, but he can get there. Owusu has been a bit of a revelation since coming back from restart. I feel like he has been a standout when he plays and he can be the creative number 6 to help build from the back and break up play.
Adnan is an interesting player. His natural position is left back, but he has been deployed as a winger as of late. He is one of our DP’s and should be played where he needs to, but he has been doing really well in the final third and his crosses are absolute class. When they get to an attacker at least. Dajome had his struggles at the beginning of the restart, but since then he has been great at taking on defenders and getting in to good positions. There is still no actual creative player to distribute and get the attack going. This is where have struggled and will continue to do so until we actually spend some money.
Our attack. Boy there is a lot to uncover with this. Cavallini recently came from Liga MX team FC Puebla as our second DP. He has yet to really find his footing in MLS but I have a feeling he will be unlocked soon. His positioning is always good, there is just no one to get him the ball. Then comes the man. Fredy Montero. He has been on fire since his return to the team. He was named MOTM in both wins for the Whitecaps. He has been crucial to their success and is seen as a leader on and off the pitch. If he and Cava start linking up then it will be dangerous for opposing defenses.
Regarding my final result prediction, I have this gut feeling it will be a a tight 3-2 victory for the Whitecaps. They are hungry after getting embarrassed in LA and are wanting revenge. They are the laughing stock of the league right now and will be determined to break that.
That is all from Charlie and Michael. We both believe this will be a fun match and can’t wait to see the outcome. Stay tuned for both of our post match reviews coming out later after the match. We will be giving our individual thoughts and insights as well.
[cover image by Paul Ottaviano via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)]