The Portland Timbers defeated Sporting Kansas City two goals to one at an 80% capacity Providence Park on Saturday night.
The Portland Timbers will host Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, June 19th at 7:30 p.m. at Providence Park in what will be Portland’s first match since March 30th. The match will be broadcast on FOX 12 Plus locally and ESPN+ nationally and internationally.
The Portland Timbers (2-3-0, 6 pts, 9th in West) defeated the San Jose Earthquakes (3-3-0, 9 pts, 4th in West) 2-0 at PayPal Park in San Jose, CA on Saturday, May 15th, 2021.
Eryk Williamson assisted both goals while squaring off with San Jose’s Jackson Yueill in midfield. Yueill was selected over Williamson for the U.S. Men’s National Team U23 squad that missed out on the Olympics a few months ago.
Portland’s newest goalkeeper, Logan Ketterer, made a massive penalty save to keep Portland’s lead intact, and the Timbers would go on to win the match 2-0.
With nine players on the injured reserve list, Timbers Head Coach Giovanni Savarese elected to “park the bus” and look for counterattacking opportunities in this match. You can be the judge how that worked out.
The opening few minutes started with a jolt. San Jose maintained most of the possession—as they would for the rest of the match—but a high press by Portland forced a turnover, which Eryk Williamson expertly weaved into a chance. As he popped the ball through to Yimmi Chará, Williamson got decked at the edge of the box. Referee Rosendo Mendoza called an advantage, but it was not needed.
Yimmi Chará’s first goal in 2021 MLS play took the pressure off Portland mentally, but not physically. San Jose would work the ball around Portland’s half relentlessly, as the Timbers relied on counterattacks and the occasional high pressure to shake the Quakes off the ball.
One such counter came in the 30′, as Portland pushed for a corner that nearly led to a headed Dario Župarić goal—his shot kissed off the post. On the other end, a nervous moment for Logan Ketterer reminded the Timbers that the match was still very close.
The Timbers leapt out to a quick start again in the second half, with Andy Polo nearly assisting Felipe Mora merely seconds into the half. His shot missed wide right, but it was a good sign for the Timbers.
That chance would be one of many for Portland in the first 15 minutes of the second period. Mora himself had a chance from his head (51′, blocked by defender) and his feet (55′, saved incredibly by J.T. Marcinkowski) before Bill Tuiloma had a header go wide.
While the Quakes started breaking Portland’s front line, the chances continued. Pablo Bonilla had maybe the best of the second half, as his beautiful one-two with Mora gave him a decent look at goal in the six yard box. Unfortunately, his left-footed shot was over the bar.
Just when it seemed like Portland were taking control, disaster struck. Claudio Bravo used his arm to block a Carlos Fierro cross, giving the ageless Chris Wondolowski a chance to level the tie from the spot—but Logan Ketterer rose to the occasion.
Ketterer, who was brought on as an emergency loanee signing after three Timbers ‘keepers went down with injuries, had an amazing night between the sticks for Portland. In all, he made four saves and one punch—none more important than the penalty stop.
The missed penalty gave Portland another jolt of confidence. The Timbers kept fighting as San Jose turned up the heat.
Jeremy Ebobisse’s night ended somewhat conspicuously as he limped off the field after grabbing his calf. Dairon Asprilla had already been slated to come on, and Jebo limped around to the bench in the 68′.
With Portland needing an insurance goal, Williamson came up big once again. After a bit of offensive pressure from Portland, Williamson whipped in a perfect ball to Marvin Loría, whose header over Marcinkowski gave the Timbers a 2-0 lead with just over 15 minutes to play.
Andy Polo became an unsung hero from tonight, with a match-high four chances created despite having zero assists to his name. He would be replaced by Renzo Zambrano in the 72′.
Diego Valeri, Jose Van Rankin, and Zac McGraw would make appearances in the 82′, replacing Mora, Loría, and Bonilla, respectively.
San Jose chased a goal with everything they had, but Portland’s defense held firm. The best chance came and went as Benjamin Kikanovic watched his header spin wide of the post in the 93′, but the match was already out of reach. A huge win for Portland in such unlikely fashion will serve the Timbers well as the regular season heats up.
Timbers fans (including myself) might not have had much faith in the team entering Saturday night, but Gio did. This match threw massive shades of the 2018 playoff run in Savarese’s inaugural season—a tough road win in which, on paper, the Timbers seemed outmatched, turned into a glorious victory as Portland put away enough chances.
A massive win for the Timbers during an exceptionally-tough period, and counterattacking the way God (I mean, Gio) intended.
Follow @doublepostpod for total coverage of tonight’s match (and every match!), including our postgame reaction podcast later this evening.
As always, RCTID!
The Portland Timbers (1-3-0, 3 pts, 12th in West) are in San Jose to take on the Earthquakes (3-2-0, 9 pts, 2nd in West) after both teams fell to the first-place Seattle Sounders in the last week. Portland hosted the Sounders on Sunday and fell 2-1, while San Jose hosted on Wednesday and lost 1-0.
Shaking Things Up
San Jose’s impressive start has been led by the young American duo of Cade Cowell and Jackson Yueill.
Let’s start with Cowell. He is Matias Almeyda’s new center forward (after the departure of Danny Hoesen to Austin and the aging of Chris Wondolowski), but nothing is so straightforward with Almeyda. His man-marking system isn’t as intense as it once was, but it still requires constant awareness and movement from every Earthquake. Enter Cowell, who at 17 years old has the energy to contribute on offense and defense. He’s scored twice and assisted thrice in five matches, but his defensive numbers may be even more impressive.
Cowell grades out near the top of most statistical comparisons for MLS forwards, including the 96th percentile for tackles + interceptions and the 96th percentile for tackles in the defensive third. Check out his full Football Reference Scouting Report to see all of his glittering green bars.
Yueill, a defensive midfielder who was part of the U-23 U.S. Men’s National Team that ultimately failed to qualify for the Olympics, has been the glue in the center of San Jose’s 4-3-3 so far this season. He scored twice against DC United and grades out well as a high-volume passer.
ON THE VOLLEY!— San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) May 2, 2021
Jackson Yueill's different. pic.twitter.com/1Bb6uU1dqM
The Quakes enter this match scoring two goals per game (T-2nd in MLS). Their three wins (Houston, DC United, and Real Salt Lake) have included some memorable goals, including Yueill’s stunner against DC and the immortal Wondo coming onto score a brace for a comeback win in Utah.
Two weeks in a row. pic.twitter.com/4R9sM3Yley— San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) May 10, 2021
Short-staffed in Stumptown
Overall, this is not the time Portland want to be playing San Jose (or really anyone, for that matter). The Timbers are perhaps the most banged-up team in MLS, with an injury list so long I had to double-check it.
Updated #RCTID Injury List:— 𝘋𝘰𝘶𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘗𝘰𝘴𝘵 𝘗𝘰𝘥𝘤𝘢𝘴𝘵 (@doublepostpod) May 13, 2021
*out for season
There are five starters on this list, not including second- and third-string goalkeepers. After Jeff Attinella and Larrys Mabiala left Sunday’s game against Seattle with injuries, the news only got worse. Giovanni Savarese confirmed this week that Diego Chará, the man historically most critical to Portland’s success, also strained a hamstring. (His backup, Cristhian Paredes, is still out for an extended period.)
The Timbers added a goalkeeper to the roster on Thursday, signing Logan Ketterer to a loan deal from USL-Championship side El Paso Locomotive FC. With 19-year-old Hunter Sulte as the only healthy goalie on the roster, this makes a ton of sense. Ketterer was actually one of the best ‘keepers in the USL-C last season, ranking first in regular season clean sheets (8 in 16 matches) and fifth in save percentage (78.3%).
Not to mention Sulte has had one of the rudest introductions to a pro career one could ask for: a four-goal thrashing in Dallas with a C-team lineup and a second-half-substitute appearance while losing to your bitter rival (which so happens to be the best team in the league). The goals he’s given up haven’t even necessarily been his fault, but that’s just the way it goes.
With all that in mind, here’s my prediction for Portland’s starting XI on Saturday:
The Timbers do have Jeremy Ebobisse back, and I have a hard time thinking that Gio will prefer Dairon Asprilla over JeboOnTheWing™ if the latter is up to full speed. I would not be surprised to see Jebo starting at center forward and Asprilla or Marvin Loría in that winger spot.
I’m not feeling very well about this match, and it’s not just because I ate Cheez-Its for breakfast and lunch today. I would applaud a draw, though I understand a loss is very likely. The only silver lining is that this will be San Jose’s third match in a week, but I still expect them to be prepared.
Either way, we’ll see, but I’m predicting a 2-1 loss Saturday night.
After a disappointing week that saw the Timbers concede four times to FC Dallas and thrice to Club América, Portland returned home to Providence Park for a date with their bitter rivals, the Seattle Sounders.
Portland missed chance after chance, including two from the penalty spot, before Seattle put two second-half goals in. Bill Tuiloma’s late free-kick made it close, but not close enough to threaten a result. The match would end 2-1 to the Sounders.
Portland were without regular starting goalkeeper Steve Clark, as well as would-be starters Sebastián Blanco and Jarosław Niezgoda. Forward Jeremy Ebobisse made his return to the starting XI but would be replaced by Felipe Mora after an hour. Playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro was out for the Sounders, though it hadn’t meant much so far this season.
Portland were on the front foot in the first half, but missed a series of chances in the 30th to 42nd minutes—and by a “series” I mean four or five half-chances and three more legitimate ones. The worst miss came from Ebobisse in the 40′, slipping as he fired a left-footed shot wide.
The first major moment of the match came in the 55′ as Ebobisse was brought down by Shane O’Neil in the box for a penalty. Valeri stepped up and had his attempt saved by Frei, but was awarded a second chance after Nouhou encroached and Frei came off his line.
Valeri’s second attempt offered no added joy for Timbers fans. His penalty smacked off the post and while his rebound went in, it would have required Frei touching it to count. Valeri was immediately subbed off for Dairon Asprilla, and the match continued at 0-0.
Ebobisse was also replaced by Felipe Mora in the exchange, and Andy Polo would replace Marvin Loría shortly after.
Portland’s attack struggled mightily without Valeri. His creativity and oversight of attacking combinations usually out Portland in successful positions, but post-60′ the Timbers resorted to getting the ball wide before stalling and losing it.
Few minutes passed before the deadlock was broken. Ruidiaz stumbled over Tuiloma and Attinella on the other end, culminating in a penalty for the Sounders. Ruidiaz took the pen and slid it to Jeff’s right, opening the scoring in the 62′.
Not a minute after the ensuing kickoff, disaster would strike once more for Portland. Attinella went down with a non-contact injury after playing the ball with his left foot and needed to be replaced by 19-year-old Hunter Sulte.
“How many times do you see three goalkeepers going down at the start of the season?” lamented Giovanni Savarese post-match. While he praised Sulte’s performance (one save, 3/5 accurate passes) he also noted that it was an exceptionally tough spot to be put in.
Ruidiaz nearly drew another penalty in the 76′ and Williamson couldn’t get on the end of a cross at the other end. It would be punished in due time.
A Seattle free kick from the right side of Portland’s defense found the head of a barely-onside Fredy Montero, who beat Sulte to give Seattle a 2-0 lead in the 79′.
Halfway through the six minutes of added time, Bill Tuiloma (of all people) blasted a beautiful curling free kick past Stefan Frei. Tuiloma’s fourth goal for the club was his most impressive, but the Timbers couldn’t muster another one. The match ended 2-1 to the visitors in a match that looked like it was Portland’s to lose.
“You don’t get some things in your favor that you’re supposed to get,” said Gio. “Unfortunately, the score doesn’t show what we gave to the game today.”
- Joao Paulo was showing his quality in the middle of the field for Seattle, stopping numerous attacks with well-timed challenges and springing the Sounders forward in the same role Diego Chará has historically played for the Timbers.
- Nouhou Tolo and Diego Chará were locked in a battle during the first half, with Chará getting the better of the always-unpredictable Nouhou early. A caution was issued to Nouhou after taking down Diego as he broke away down the right.
- Portland’s overall passing play was amazing, building up and transitioning well from defense-to-attack. Now the focus shifts back to finishing chances, a la 2019 pre-Brian Fernández.
Follow @doublepostpod for total coverage of tonight’s match (and every match!), including our postgame reaction podcast later this evening.
As always, RCTID!
The season is almost here, and it appears Portland is almost ready to go. The squad is currently doing some preseason training in Costa Rica. Their first preseason match was yesterday against Saprissa, which Portland won 2-1.
Mora is on a loan using Targeted Allocation Money, according to The Athletic. The loan reportedly includes an option to buy, which means Portland can retain him next season if he finally becomes the #9 we’ve been looking for since… well, the #9 we’ve been looking for.
Mora has played in Chile and Mexico, the latter with Cruz Azul and Pumas.
Mora is a pure #9. He plants himself on the defense’s backline, often in between the opponent center backs. Most of his goals come from headers and poaching chances in the box. Not a bad plan for a team that fell into the empty void of crosses last season—Portland was 2nd in MLS in crosses (557) and 12th in goals scored (53)—so after a naive first glance, it would seem they need a proven poacher upfront.
Brian Fernández was more of a dynamic forward, and so is Jarek Niezgoda, Portland’s newest signee. Niezgoda probably cost just under $4 million in transfer fees, and he joins the squad as a Designated Player, occupying the third and final DP spot on the Timbers’ roster.
Since becoming a bonafide starter for Legia Warsaw in 2017, Niezgoda has scored 39 goals in 87 appearances. This includes a Polish-league-leading 14 goals in 18 appearances in the latest installment of the Ekstraklasa.
He’s a spry 24, so hopefully a touch quicker than CSN’s own Kevin Nesgoda.
After announcing the signing of Niezgoda, Timbers GM Gavin Wilkinson gave a very interesting sigh of relief to MLS’s Tom Bogert. Included was a scouting report of the new striker:
“Jarek is capable of playing as a single No. 9 or as a two, and he’s even played out wide in the past. Balancing his characteristics with Jeremy, we feel very good about that position. He’s a goal scorer, comfortable with both feet. Good size, good athleticism and can finish in a variety of ways. He attacks the ball. With his feet, he’s very quick, gets the ball off his foot very quickly and he’s an honest, hard-working player.”
via Tom Bogert
On the Pitch
In the aforementioned report, Gavin indicated the Timbers would announce the signings of Mora and Cristhian Paredes (who is still technically on loan from Club América). These were both given substance by fan-turned-insider Keith Palau, and the former was confirmed by the Timbers.
Portland will have two DP attacking wingers and one DP forward. My assumption is that all three of these players will start, making an all-DP front line of Sebástian Blanco, Niezgoda, and Yimmi Chará. Both Blanco and Yimmi historically like to cut inside, meaning the Jorges (Moreira and Villafaña) will continue to bomb up the flanks and send in crosses.
This is all fine and good, except it would be ideal to have a big center forward on the end of those. Mora may seem like the obvious choice for this, but keep in mind that Niezgoda is 6’1″—small in basketball, but pretty dang tall for a soccer player. Within his quick assessment of Niezgoda, head coach Giovanni Savarese mentioned the forward being “good with his head,” so it hopefully he’s still be an aerial threat.
Possible Starting Formations
As per last week’s roster check, this is still how I saw the starting XI shaking out:
But Gavin’s comments from last week have me almost certain of a two-forward system. He mentioned the system itself and made it clear Jebo had a place in the squad:
“We believe in Jeremy Ebobisse,” Wilkinson said.&nbsp;”He’s a quality player with a big upside and he’s not the finished product, so we have to be careful not to limit his growth and minutes. We wanted to acquire a Young DP that also has an upside that Jeremy can compete with, and with a profile to change systems and tactics so they can play with one another.”
via Tom Bogert
This dual-striker idea, while presenting an attacking pipe dream (via a probable solution to Portland’s problem of breaking down teams in a low block), begs the question—if we’re adding a forward, who comes off the field?
My instincts say a holding midfielder (so, Paredes) or moving to three at the back by replacing Villafaña and Moreira with another fullback (probably Bill Tuiloma). Playing with three center backs is something Savarese mentioned at Portland’s Media Day last week.
I’d also welcome a three-man backline that still included the regular outside fullbacks. For these purposes, I’m assuming the Jorges’ attacking tendencies (and long-lamented lack of tracking back) would keep them out of this system, but I’m sure Gio could justify a way of making it work.
Maybe some Jebo on the Wing™ will be a starting option in a 4-3-3.
Right now, the 4-3-3 would be my best guess as to what the Timbers will put out on March 1st. It checks all the boxes Gavin mentioned and keeps Portland’s most proven players on the field in a system that’s still similar to Gio’s past ones.
If one thing’s clear from these signings, it’s that it’s finally time to say goodbye to Savarese’s beloved 4-3-2-1 “Christmas Tree” that served as Portland’s security blanket XI in the past two years. Poor Tannenbaum.
Portland may also play with five at the back that adapts into a 3-6-1 or 3-5-2 in attack to utilize the strengths of the Jorges. Feel free to choose your own adventure and plugin Jebo somewhere with this formation, too.
Regardless of what exact system Gio goes with, the fact that we can even speculate this much highlights an important feature of this team: its positive evolution. At the beginning of last season, we were struggling to select 11 guys that were starting-caliber MLS players. Now it seems we have an embarrassment of riches, especially up top.
Although we haven’t seen them in action yet, Gavin and owner Merritt Paulson should be receiving a bit of praise for clearly identifying areas of need and filling them with no-nonsense signings. Again, we have to see how these newbies adapt, but on paper, it’s a job well done.
Here’s my interpretation of a hypothetical Timbers “depth chart”—I went for realisticness over the organization. Considering we’re pretty far from even knowing what kind of formation or system we’ll play, it’s safe to say most of this is up in the air. Still, feel free to slander me on any social media platform or the comments below.
Steve Clark has proven his spot as the first keeper over the course of last season. In 24 starts last season, Clark finished third in MLS in save percentage (.755), second in goals allowed per 90 (1.04) and recorded a clean sheet 25% of the time. The Timbers are clearly committed to Clark, giving him a new contract over the offseason.
Attinella is still a starting-quality ‘keeper for the most part, and he did start in 10 matches last season. While he conceded 24 goals in that stretch, it’s worth noting that both these goalies dealt with some truly abysmal performances by the other 10 players throughout the season, too.
One of Portland’s worst overall positions last year was center back. When Larrys Mabiala was out with an injury, it seemed the Cascante-Tuiloma pairing took much too long to gel. Claude Dielna (who was not resigned) struggled to keep up with the competition when called upon, as well. Even when Mabiala returned, the defense was still not up to snuff. Often times, it took Steve Clark standing on his head to keep the ball out of the net.
It wasn’t surprising, then, that the first big offseason move Portland made was to sign a new center back, Dario Zuparic. A TAM signing, Zuparic will probably be good enough, especially because of Gio’s indication that Tuiloma can be used at positions other than CB.
*As of yesterday’s match against Saprissa, Tuiloma will be out for two months. Better sign another defender…
No signings have been made here (yet), so the depth chart pretty much stays the same.
Farfan is preferred on the left, and it feels like Moreira’s spot is a tad more secure than Villafaña’s.
Bill will appear on both outside back positions just as a filler. Unless there are injuries, I doubt we’ll actually see him there.
- Jorge Moreira
- Marco Farfan
- Bill Tuiloma
Again, nothing new here, although right back was an area addressed by Gavin and Gio at Media Day. Farfan is still the second string at both these positions assuming he recovers well from injury.
Chris Duvall is currently on trial as a right back with the squad in Costa Rica. He’d be a solid backup at a thin position.
*Flores is out for a bit with a meniscus tear, but that shouldn’t change this order too much.
Depending on how Gio decides to set up, we may continue to see the Paredes/Chará pairing in the holding midfield. If only one is used, it will be Chará. Portland’s only All-Star last year was sent there for a reason. He still hasn’t shown signs of slowing down, even at 33.
Zambrano and Williamson got intermittent reps with the first team last year, and Williamson especially got some crucial minutes. The soon-to-be-23-year-old played a full 90 in Portland’s 2-1 home win over Sporting Kansas City in September and started the next match, playing 61 more minutes. I wouldn’t be surprised if he passed the more experienced Zambrano during the year.
Tuiloma has actually played a bit of stopper for us in the past, so he’s another viable option should the midfield get thin.
Central Attacking Midfielder
This might as well be called “the Valeri position.” It’s not exactly a #10 creative piece, but it’s also not a pure #8 box-to-box duty. El Maestro is back on a new contract, and although he’s no longer a DP, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be starting in this spot.
Blanco will often push in from the wing and be another creator from the inside, giving Portland more options in attack. When Valeri’s out, he’s filled in well at this spot, too.
Conechny has shown flashes of his ability to lead the team from the attacking midfield—our best example being the 2-1 midweek loss at Montréal from last year in which a bunch of fringe-starters and T2 guys played. Conechny scored in this match, although Williamson occupied this position.
I put Bodily here because he’s a warm body that can play in the midfield. Maybe he get some Open Cup appearances.
- Sebástian Blanco
- Yimmi Chará
- Jeremy Ebobisse
- Marvin Loría
- Andy Polo
- Dairon Asprilla
- Tomás Conechny
- Eryk Williamson
I’ve grouped the wingers together because in Savarese’s offense they are essentially interchangeable. All of these guys can play on either side of the field, it’s just a matter of where they line up. In my lineups I’ve been putting Yimmi on the right and Blanco on the left for simplicity, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Gio swapped them.
As mentioned previously, both Yimmi and Seba tend to cut inside, while Jebo gets in the box more and the rest mostly stay out on the wing.
Blanco and Yimmi Chará will both start, and you could basically swap them at 1 and 2 if you wanted to. I expect 1-4 on this list to get playing time, though. While Loría only logged 700 MLS minutes last year, he’s still only 22 with plenty of upside—just needs more first-team minutes.
As for Polo and Asprilla, I have to think they’d really need to show improvement to see significant minutes. Portland added two DP attackers, and it always seemed like Polo and Asprilla were placeholders rather than preferred starters.
- Jarek Niezgoda
- Jeremy Ebobisse
- Felipe Mora
While we may end up with an aforementioned two-striker system, the pecking order seems to be like this. I expect all three of these players to get significant playing time this year, albeit in this order.
While I have doubts about Niezgoda’s ability to produce like Brian Fernández did, I’m remaining optimistic.
According to this Richard Farley article, Mora’s more of a “Hey, this guy is buried in the bench of a solid Mexican team, so we might as well add some quality depth at forward” (quote non-verbatim). I like this move, and while Mora has a “3” beside him on my depth chart, he’s more of a 1.5-2. When we’re tied or down late in a match, it’ll be nice to have someone other than Asprilla to bring on.
If I’ve learned anything from writing this, it’s that I am absolutely itching for the season to start. It’s a shame that the preseason matches in Costa Rica won’t be streamed, but I’ll see if I can piece together what goes on down there.
Dare I say… if we sign a backup right back, this will be the deepest Timbers squad we’ve seen since 2015, possibly ever.
The Portland Timbers have slowed down since their recent three-game win spurt, and now face two of the best squads in Major League Soccer over the next two weeks: the Philadelphia Union and LAFC. Saturday’s match in Philadelphia will be Portland’s final road match before the new-and-improved Providence Park opens its gates on June 1st vs LAFC.Portland ground out a point at Houston last Wednesday thanks to a stellar debut and goal by new Designated Player signing Brian Fernández. While Fernández only came on in the 65th minute, he was clearly an immediate upgrade from Andy Polo on the right side of the attack. Polo actually had a decent match—nearly creating a cheeky assist for Sebastián Blanco in the 16th minute—but Fernández proved to be a direct threat as soon as he stepped onto the pitch for Portland.
The Union are off to a blistering start to the first third of the season, earning an Eastern Conference-best 24 points from 13 matches, including seven wins in their last 10. Their most recent match was a scoreless draw against second-place Seattle. Despite controlling two-thirds of the possession and out-shooting the Sounders 20-6, the Union were unable to get the ball into Stefan Frei’s net (sound familiar?). Regardless, it was an impressive performance against the second-best team in the league this year.Philadelphia operates in a 4-4-2 diamond, with the forwards and wings pressing against the back line and attacking midfielder Brenden Aaronson pressuring the holding midfielder. Portland must be able to either pass through this press or find ways to win headers in the midfield and recover possession. The speed of Fernández is certainly an important factor here, but the passing deft of the back line and holding midfield will be the difference going forward.The Union could have an emerging star in Aaronson, but most of the goal production has come from 26-year-old forward Kacper Przybylko, who has scored three goals in just six appearances for the Union so far, and has arguably been Philly’s best player since entering the lineup. The German-born Pole will impose both his size and quick passing skill to try and break Portland’s back line.It will be crucial for Julio Cascante and Bill Tuiloma to not get stretched too wide and track Przybylko’s sporadic runs throughout the attacking third. This also requires defensive tracking from the wide backs, which was a lingering issue in the match against Houston.
Philly’s diamond can also be vulnerable to wide play, so getting Jorge Moreira and Jorge Villafaña (or Zarek Valentin) forward to combine with the midfield is crucial. If Fernández is placed in the midfield, Diego Valeri will take over more defensive responsibilities than usual. Fernández could start for Ebobisse up top, though, and Flores or Polo would retain the right midfield spot, where they have both been solid defensively.Moreira has shown his ability to get crosses off in the attacking half, but his defensive positioning has given the Timbers problems. In the last match alone, Moreira lost his man frequently, inciting a goal in the first half and multiple near-breakaway chances in the second. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Zarek Valentin starting for Moreira at right back, especially if Fernandez is in the starting XI.Fernández scored the tying goal just 12 minutes into his debut, and his movement into wide spaces almost earned the Timbers a winner eight minutes later. He poses a legitimate threat to any back line, and will likely get the start on Saturday over Polo or Andrés Flores.Elsewhere in the lineup, Cristhian Paredes will not be available, meaning Renzo Zambrano would most likely take his place in the central midfield, but he is already with the Venezuelan National Team. Zambrano filled in surprisingly well for the suspended Diego Chará last week, showing great passing and organizational ability for the majority of the match—Renzo completed 38 passes at 86% accuracy, including 6/6 accurate long balls.https://twitter.com/RenzoZambrano_/status/1131741427942211584The biggest mystery about Giovanni Savarese’s starting lineup, though, may be at usually the most predictable position: goalkeeper. Last week, Jeff Attinella was great between the sticks, saving eight shots—six of which were from inside the 18. Jeff still struggled with distributing the ball, but his performance was solid nonetheless. Steve Clark has been just as good when called upon, so it appears to be a toss-up for this weekend.
Prediction: 2-1 Philadelphia
Philadelphia pose a unique threat for the Timbers. What they lack in raw star power, they make up for in their chemistry and execution. Any points for the Timbers are fine in this match. It’s been a gruesome and polarizing 12-match road trip (which, by the way, is the longest in MLS history). There have been zero clean sheets, a win streak, an even longer losing streak, and a blizzard. This may end up looking like the most disappointing stretch of the season, but it has still set the Timbers up to fight from behind for the rest of the year.
Tactical Keys for Portland’s success:
- Breaking Philly’s Press
- Attacking wide spaces
- Staying organized defensively
- Time: Saturday, May 25th, 2019 @ 4:30 p.m. PT
- Location: Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, PA, USA
- TV: Root Sports (local), ESPN+ (national)
- Radio: 750 AM/102.9 FM The Game
- Odds from Bovada (as of 5/23): Philadelphia -165, Draw +300, Portland +390