- Matthew Laboissonniere
Portland Timbers Match Preview
On the road again, just can’t wait to get back on the road again! Is that what the Lions are listening to on the way to Portland? Probably not but hopefully they’re listening to something that’s gonna pump them the hell up, cause they've got a dogfight waiting for them on Sunday at Providence Park. We’ve seen what the Lions can do against top-tier teams last week when they traveled to LA and got a scrappy 1-0 win vs the Galaxy. Now, they stay on the west coast and face off against the Timbers who had another fantastic season last year, losing in the MLS Cup Final to NYCFC.
The Timbers were leaking at both ends last season, scoring 56 goals while also conceding 52. They finished fourth in the West and won 3 straight playoff games to host the final, only to lose in heartbreaking fashion in PKs. Regardless, and quite obviously, a very successful season for Portland nonetheless, who have become a staple of MLS greatness. Orlando’s been a mixed bag. I’m really hard on the teams I support and I’m not convinced about Orlando yet. They may need to grind out another hard fought win, and that’s how footy is. If they can get this win on the road, I may be a full on believer.
Orlando City Stats
2-1-1, Top Goal Scorer: Pato/Michel/Urso/Torres, Top Assister: Ruan/Pereyra/Torres/Kara, WLDWL
1-1-2, Top Goal Scorer: Chara, Top Assister: Chara, LWDDL
1. Defense Needs to be a Juggernaut
Portland is absolutely excellent in the final third and they make things happen. Blanco, Chara, and Moreno are going to get going. There might not be a more threatening front 3 in MLS right now aside from the Galaxy in terms of pure talent. However, Orlando was able to put out that fire in LA last week. The Timbers are playoff proven and experienced. Gallese has been great thus far, as well as the defense in general (we don’t talk about Cincinnati), but with him missing out due to international duty, the defense will need to step up. A clean sheet in Portland would have me FULLY bought in.
2. Kara is THAT guy
I think Kara is my preferred option in the middle of a front 3 for this squad. I saw a lot of things I liked from the last game. 1 - maybe it’s a personal preference, but I have always preferred a strong, bully winger. Gives me Diego Costa vibes. Gets a goal and a bloody dirty sock to go with it. Him bullying people up front got a lot of dirty work done for guys like Torres against LA to just focus on creation. 2- In defense, he is much more intimidating in the middle when we have 11 behind the ball. He clogs up the midfield - especially when we have 3 center midfielders - and forces teams to try to possess wide. 3 - he can cross better than our RB.
3. International Duty Issues
Facundo Torres, Jhegson Mendez, and Pedro Gallese are all going to be out on international duty. Can we just get rid of international duty? I know it’s World Cup Qualifiers but I think it’s more important that I get to watch Torres on the wing again. The other options we may see out there include Michel and Pato, the latter being pushed out wide in the past couple games. With Torres away this is a perfect opportunity for Michel to step up and create on the wing. Lord knows Ruan is not going to do it. Stajduhar is expected to come in for Gallese and Mendez missed the first three matches so we should be fine without him.
A Look at the Timbers
~ runner up in the MLS Cup last season, lost in PKs
~ very dangerous final third which scored 56 goals last season
~ 4-2-3-1 system with defensive fullbacks and a strong focus on winning the central midfield
~ off to a slow start this season but bound for a spark, could be a good chance at home for them this Sunday
~ no Torres for the Lions is a big miss going forward
Timbers 2-0. They’re bound to get going eventually and I don’t think the Lions have it in them to win 2 straight against LA and Portland. The midfield battle is going to be crucial and the decider in this game. If the offense can get clicking though, I guess we will see! Vamos!