Timbers ready to revamp MLS season against Sporting KC

by Charlie Folkestad

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.

After struggling through a clustered schedule with an abhorrent amount of injuries, the Timbers will look to stump a tough Western Conference rival with some reinforcements. 

“We’re not in full strength, but we’re feeling stronger” said Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese. 

Let’s go over who’s (probably) in and who’s (probably) out for this upcoming match.

Who’s In

  • George Fochive: The former Timbers midfielder returned to the Rose City earlier this month after spells in Sweden and Israel. Fochive, 29 years old, was once considered as a Diego Chará backup candidate. He’ll now add some depth to a solid midfield, presumably as a Cristhian Paredes replacement. 
  • Sebastián Blanco: Gio offered this about Blanco, who has also been out since last season: “Seba, there is a little possibility he’ll be a part of this match….He’s at a point right now where we’re getting closer to seeing him be a part of the bench.” So essentially, he may be in the 18, and possibly coming off the bench late, but don’t expect to see him in the starting XI. 
  • Steve Clark: went down earlier this season, prompting the Timbers to temporarily sign Logan Ketterer from El Paso Locomotive FC. He has since returned to El Paso. “I feel very rested, my body feels good, my mind feels good,” said Clark, who is expected to start this match.
  • Larry Mabiala and Diego Chará have been missing matches, but they were spotted at training this week. I wouldn’t expect Mabiala to start, but Chará is a probable. 

Who’s Out

  • Yimmi Chará and Felipe Mora are in South America with their national teams (Colombia and Chile, respectively) for the Copa América. Depending how far their teams go in the competition, they could be gone through mid-July. 
  • Jarosław Niezgoda: Gio also commented on striker Jarek Niezgoda, who has been out since last season with an ACL tear:  “Niezgoda is doing really well. He’s now starting to do some things with the full team, which is very important. So soon we’ll see him on the bench.” Looks like he won’t be available for this match. 
  • Christian Paredes is assumed to be injured for the time being. He picked up a left thigh strain in the home leg against Club América and was given a six-to-eight week recovery timeline. It’s been seven weeks. 
  • Andy Polo, Aljaz Ivacic, Ismaila Jome, and Jeff Attinella are all out for the season. 

The Opponent

Sporting Kansas City played Austin FC in the lone MLS match last week. Austin’s Cecilio Domínguez scored a 20th-minute opener before Dániel Sallói equalized in the second half. The match ended in a 1-0 draw.

Sporting not being able to get three home points against a team tied on points with Vancouver and Minnesota is encouraging for Timbers fans, although Brad Stuver’s eight saves from KC shots inside the box is not. 

The matchup to watch in this one is Kansas City’s right winger, Johnny Russell, against Timbers left back Claudio Bravo. Bravo, who was purchased from Banfield in Argentina for $1.5 million in the offseason, has had an underwhelming start to the season for the Timbers. Hopefully he can turn that around with a solid outing against one of the better wingers in MLS. 

The Lineup

Ultimately, the balance of this match will rest on who plays and who site for the Timbers. If I had to predict a starting XI (which I don’t, but I will), it would look like this:

How I expect Portland to line up against SKC

Jeremy Ebobisse, the only healthy striker on the roster, will start up top. This I am sure of. Supporting him, Diego Valeri has been healthy, but Blanco and Yimmi (as discussed) are not starting. Marvin Loría and Dairon Asprilla are the likely replacements. 

Diego Chará will probably be ready to go and Eryk Williamson has been healthy. If Chará needs more rest and Paredes can’t go, Renzo Zambrano or Fochive are logical replacements. 

The back line is almost fully healthy, and even if Mabiala is unavailable, Bill Tuiloma has been mostly solid in his absence. The fullbacks of Bravo and Josecarlos van Rankin are the only starting position group that hasn’t gone through injuries so far. 

As mentioned, Clark should be back in goal, although there was an interesting transfer rumor with goalkeeper David Bingham making an appearance in Portland recently. No further noise has been made. 

Expectations and Predictions

This match could go either way. Kansas City are a good team, and Portland shouldn’t be too let down if SKC come away with three points. Of course, this is a home match. Injuries are a tired excuse. This team is hungry to win.

As for a prediction, I would call it a draw if not for the crowd factor. Providence Park will be open at 80% capacity for the first time in over a year. The fans will be drooling for goals, and Portland are still a good enough team to find them. I’ll say Timbers win 3-1, with Diego Valeri doing something crazy. 

 


Follow @doublepostpod for total coverage of tonight’s match (and every match!), including our postgame reaction podcast later this evening.

As always, RCTID!

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