After a deeply disappointing home loss to D.C. United, the Portland Timbers (13-4D-12, 43 pts, 7th in West) head into the home stretch of the season. Despite constant belief that “games in hand” and “home field advantage” will automatically launch Portland into a decent playoff spot, the Timbers ended Sunday night in 7th place. Again. While Portland still does have that game in hand and four out of five remaining matches at Providence Park, this team is still largely facing the same questions it has all year. Despite relative success in the U.S. Open Cup, Portland have failed to put together three consecutive MLS wins since last school year (remember that weird pocket of victories in Columbus, Toronto, and Salt Lake?). Heading into a midweek match against the usually-formidable New York Red Bulls (12-5D-13, 41 pts, 6th in East), Portland need more than a win—they need a convincing one. New York is having an off year by their standards, coming off three straight losses and the Timbers will likely have their starting lineup back in the attacking half. This will be the second match of five in fifteen days for the Timbers, but defender Jorge Villafaña didn’t seem too concerned about if affecting them on the field: “It’s all out. You can’t save anything [when on the field]. Having matches every three or four days…we like it, and we just try to do everything possible to be ready for the games.” The biggest tactical flaw in Portland’s offensive system has been in the Timbers’ inability to break down defenses…do I sound like a broken record yet? While this issue was on full display against D.C. in Sunday’s loss, it was without key starters Sebastián Blanco and Brian Fernández. As Diego Valeri reminded us postgame, “we did it last week,” referring to the game-winning goal against Sporting Kansas City in which all 11 of the opposition’s players began behind the ball. FiveThirtyEight’s MLS Playoff projections for the Timbers have decreased a couple percentage points since the last time I wrote about them, and the most likely playoff spot is one that would require a midweek road win to advance. Sitting back and counterattacking has treated Portland well in the past, especially in the playoffs, but with the embarrassment of attacking riches, it would be much more satisfying on the ol’ blood pressure to see some better crosses to green shirts in the box. Any squad with the three aforementioned players should have the ability to score consistently, especially when key links such as Diego Chará, Jorge Moreira, and others are in the mix. That’s at least four or five starting-caliber MLS players on almost any squad in the league. Savarese knows they’re capable, and so do they. So do the fans, analysts, and writers alike. The Timbers have the tools to get it done, but the critical touch, pass, or finish is often lacking—which is why this season has become so frustrating. We all promised ourselves things would get better. Excuses were made, and convincing results are still yet to come. While the on-field product has been a mixed bag to say the least, many Timbers supporters are dealing with a much larger issue—one that has nothing to do with goals, standings, or tactics. Those who know of the Iron Front saga are concerned. Those who have been affected are enraged, and you may be as well, upon further examination. (I will not be recapping said saga in this article, but you can find great reads on it here and here. I also encourage you to do your own research or ask any seasoned Timbers Army supporter; most will be more than happy to explain.) The Timbers front office has effectively boxed itself into a catch-22: abiding by MLS’s controversial Fan Code of Conduct has clearly not fared well, and making the TA happy will likely beckon a (previously nonexistent) backlash of conflict from the other end of the political spectrum, which has already begun. For many, this season will be overshadowed by a newfound distrust in upper management, regardless of what transpires on the pitch. We all promised ourselves things would get better. Excuses were made, and convincing results are still yet to come. The story of this season is yet to be determined, and the ending might not be all sunshine and roses. The Timbers could realistically tumble out of the playoffs in the early rounds, or even miss them altogether. The ongoing talks between scarves and suits could also go nowhere, potentially leaving core supporters with a personal choice between the team they love and the beliefs they hold. These are worst-case scenarios, of course, but are nonetheless hypotheticals that need to be taken seriously. So what would the best-case scenario be? First off, it would be fantastic for the Timbers to win, and then win some more, and then win a whole lot more—f*ck it, maybe even win a trophy. No matter what happens in the stands, on Twitter, or in conference rooms, winning will always be better. Even if no common ground is reached by MLS and its supporters, a Portland playoff run would only give more exposure to the Iron Front issue, and probably the symbol itself. As far as an agreement of the Iron Front issue, I’m honestly not certain as to what an ideal result would be at this point. To those heavily invested in the dispute, the front office has done irreversible damage. Timbers Owner Merritt Paulson has already rubbed the Timbers Army the wrong way by siding with MLS, and some in dissent have even gone so far as to cancel season ticket renewals. The best course of action would seemingly be to remove the word “political” from the MLS Fan Code of Conduct, but as mentioned earlier, I fear this may create an even more violent conflict between right and left, one that has escalated considerably over the past few years in this country. No matter how much the Timbers front office foreseeably apologizes, removes the ban, or kisses the feet of the Timbers Army, everyone will have known the course of action they took. They made a clear decision to obey Major League Soccer over the will of its most devoted fans, a choice that comes with consequences, some of which they are surely yet to face. Major League Soccer is always desperate for attention. If you’re an American soccer fan, you know this. You have sat through countless promotions, commercials, and advertisements for anyone willing to front the bill. One in particular, Audi, uses the motto “Goals Drive Progress” to fund MLS academies. They use it in Golden Boot graphics, goal highlights, and Taylor Twellman even wrote an article about it. All that is great, and is necessary to build a strong league, but the hypocrisy presented here is laughable—MLS’s recent goals have silenced supporters, certainly not driving progress. In order to score goals, a team must consistently create chances—the Timbers in particular need to take charge of possession, progress the ball, and be proactive. Complacency can be useful in certain settings, and it can lead to goals when provoked, but absorbing pressure can only work for so long. Creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking are of the utmost importance. If Savarese’s men can make this happen on the field, one can only hope that they will lead by example for our friends in the front office.
The Portland Timbers (11-4D-11, 37 pts, 8th in West) and Real Salt Lake (13-4D-10, 43 pts, 2nd in West) will meet in a classic late-season Saturday night showdown at Providence Park. Match Info Time: Saturday, August 31st @ 7:30pm PT Location: Providence Park, Portland, OR TV: FOX 12 Plus (channel 49) As you probably know, this match has huge implications beyond simply extending a mini unbeaten streak or avenging the legendary 2013 squad. A quick look at the Western Conference standings reveal 8th place Portland trails 2nd place RSL by only six points. I feel like a broken record when I mention Portland’s game in hand, but it only means something if they can capitalize on it. Two straight home defeats on national television and an injuries to both starting center backs didn’t do much to help that cause. Standings provided by Sofascore LiveScore sofa_embed(‘sofa-standings-embed-18-20108’, window); A couple weeks ago, I looked at FiveThirtyEight’s MLS predictions for the Timbers, which gave them a 90% chance to make the playoffs. While that number is down, 83% is still a pretty good shot. The bigger question lies in what position the Timbers will finish. An expanded playoff format guarantees home field advantage for the top four teams in each conference, but Portland still has work to do: Timbers final position in Western Conference standings FiveThirtyEight Probability (%) 2nd* 13% 3rd* 16% 4th* 15% 5th** 14% 6th** 12% 7th** 12% 8th or less (missing playoffs) 18% *=home playoff match guaranteed **=away match in 1st round This only adds to the stress of the match for the Timbers, who already need this win badly. On the Iron Front front As you also probably know, there has been a much bigger issue raging in the background of these last few matches: while the Iron Front ban protest was certainly noticed, neither the league nor the Timbers Army seem keen to give up their side. Owner Merritt Paulson mildly evaded a question about fan safety to re-hash the issue of the flag’s political nature during a Portland Thorns Q&A, while the TA has stated they are in “ongoing talks” with the Timbers front office. This writer stands with the Timbers Army and hopes that the ban is rescinded soon. Other Noteworthy Matches Before we get to the match at hand, there are a couple of other critical matches you might want to be aware of before the Timbers kick off at 7:30. If college football isn’t your thing (and you have ESPN+), definitely check out these first two: Cincinnati @ Dallas, 4:00 PT FC Dallas is currently sitting on 40 points (three ahead of the Timbers), but they have also played two more matches. This should be an easy win for Dallas at home against the worst team in MLS, but we’ve seen crazier things happen in MLS. Root for Cincy! Houston @ Kansas City, 4:30 PT Don’t look now, but if Portland slips up in the remaining matches, these two sides will be nipping at their heels, especially Kansas City. SKC is within three points of the Timbers, and although Portland does have a game in hand, two remaining meetings with KC could make the playoff race trickier than expected. Root for a draw or Houston win! Orlando City @ San Jose, 7:30 PT This match will start at the same time as Portland’s, but keep an eye on San Jose, who are one of the teams Portland are chasing in the Western Conference standings. Root for Orlando! LA Galaxy @ Seattle, 2:30 PT Sunday Take a look at this matchup if you find time Sunday. The performances of both these teams will be critical to Portland’s playoff position. Root for a draw, although seeing either of these teams lose will surely bring a wry smile. Match Primer Ok, onto the match itself. In order to win this match, Portland will need to stop Albert Rusnák. The Slovak #11 pulls the strings for RSL’s attack, and if RSL sits deep to absorb pressure (more on that later), his creativity is deadly on the counter-attack. Luckily, the Timbers have Diego Chará, who is more than capable. Who they won’t have, though, is Larrys Mabiala and Julio Cascante. During the bulk of the regular season, this duo was the preferred starting center back pairing for head coach Giovanni Savarese—although I still prefer Tuiloma over Cascante when both are healthy. Replacement Claude Dielna has had his fair share of mistakes, but he has also had some solid matches, most notably against NYCFC, Orlando City, and Colorado. It should be noted that Dielna’s weakness, though, is his lack of pace. This was exploited quite easily by Mason Toye and Minnesota United earlier this month. If RSL does end up finding space on the counter, things will be a lot more nervy for Portland’s back line. Lineups What curveball will Gio throw us this week? Last week we had Marvin Loría starting over Jeremy Ebobisse and Zarek Valentin getting the nod over an injured Jorge Moreira. Now, Valentin is questionable with a hamstring injury and the Timbers find themselves with four healthy players on the back line (at least it makes my prediction easier). In the midfield, Cristhian Paredes should get the start next to Chará, but there have been rumblings of a leg injury that would undoubtedly see Renzo Zambrano get the start. In the attack, there have been some proponents of seeing Brian Fernández play out on the wing, but these pipe dreams were mostly dismissed by Gio’s comments in training. With rest no longer a factor (for now), I expect the lineup to look like this: Keys Scoring against a low block: It’s no secret that Portland has had their fair share of trouble against defenses that stay compact and look to counter-attack. It’s how the Timbers made it to MLS Cup last year, and it’s how teams have been grabbing points from them this year. Hopefully getting Moreira back will help attack wide areas and exploit a back line that has given up only 34 goals this season. Scoring the first goal: I know, duh. You want your team to score all the goals, not just the first one. But conceding the first goal buried the Timbers in their last two losses. I guess this key should read: Score before the other team, or if you don’t, don’t let yourself keep playing poorly. Keeping things tidy on the back line: The last (and only) time Dielna and Tuiloma started together, it was part of a 5-man back line designed to stop Zlatan Ibrahimovic that went…poorly. This will be a big experiment, and I wouldn’t be that surprised to see a—dare I say it—back three at some point on Saturday. Salt Lake will be licking their chops at the thought of attacking this back four, and it could be a massive game for Steve Clark between the sticks. RSL’s strategy should be to sit back and take what the Timbers give them on the counter. They are facing a pair of questionable center backs in Cascante and Dielna, and suddenly Sam Johnson’s nine goals in 20 appearances look even more impressive. HOWEVER, I think Portland wins this match because Real Salt Lake comes out of their shell and tries to compete. As long as the back line avoids any egregious errors, I think this should be a classic home win for the Timbers. And finally… After a lengthy delay, my friend Reece and I have finally released the first episode of the Double Post Podcast! Check us out on Soundcloud and Twitter to keep up with all the hottest takes in the Timbers community. As always, thanks for reading and go Timbers!
The Portland Timbers (10-4D-9, 34 pts) will host the Chicago Fire (7-9D-10, 30 pts) at Providence Park on Wednesday night. It will be the second home match in a row for the Timbers, who find themselves perfectly poised to make a late-season run for a playoff spot thanks to a massive home stretch of matches. The Big Picture Take a deep breath. The Timbers find themselves at the penalty spot, with a chance to send themselves to the playoffs. All they have to do is execute. Portland exhales and approaches the ball. Will they rise to the occasion or Abdul-Salaam it off the posts? Since that dreadful run of form to start the season, Portland has made all the right moves—signing Brian Fernández wasn’t a bad place to start, nor was defeating both Cascadia rivals. A hiccup in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals can’t cancel the phenomenal run of form that included beating Seattle in Seattle, shellacking the LA Galaxy twice (rare!) and defeating LAFC away (super rare!!). Portland are now undefeated in seven of their last eight MLS matches and ready to shake up the West: Standings provided by Sofascore LiveScore FiveThirtyEight’s MLS predictions give Portland a 90% chance to make the playoffs (second only to LAFC in the West) and 53 points for the season (on par with Seattle and Real Salt Lake). Despite trailing these teams in the standings, Portland has a game in hand and play 10 out of their 11 remaining matches at home. But how realistic is this prediction? In order to hit a 53-point total, the Timbers would have to earn 19 points from their remaining 11 matches. This is certainly feasible, but it won’t be easy. After Wednesday’s match, only two remaining matches will be against a team currently outside playoff position—Sporting Kansas City—who will likely be fighting for a spot anyway. History Not to jinx it, but the Chicago Fire are the only team the Portland Timbers have never lost to in Major League Soccer. This match should be no exception. Portland are coming off a strong showing and are undefeated at home since the opener against LAFC. Chicago struggled mightily in July, dropping points to three playoff outsiders, but their last three matches have garnered seven points, all from teams they trail in the table. Still, the Fire have earned only six points from 12 away matches this season. Portland and Chicago have a peculiar history, including Portland’s inaugural home MLS match at Jeld-Wen field (this was also the first MLS win in the club’s history). Other notable matchups include a pair of four-goal draws and a dramatic home draw in 2014. Lineups: who sits, who stays? Timbers Head Coach Giovanni Savarese may elect to rest some players, alt5hough many already got that rest Saturday: Jorge Moreira, Brian Fernández, Cristhian Paredes, and Larrys Mabiala were all regular starters that sat, but their replacements performed well regardless. Earlier in the season, the lineup questions were about who was capable of starting for the Timbers. Now, it seems they can’t find enough spots on the field. Guys like Jeremy Ebobisse, Marvin Loría, and Tomás Conechny—who all scored or assisted last match—are in danger of sitting to start the next match, with Fernández coming back from thigh stiffness and the whole team playing well. My prediction is that Valeri gets some rest against a non-playoff, non-conference opponent, while Ebobisse retains his spot on the left wing. This could be a great time to get Tomás Conechny some starting experience, although it’s hard to leave out Loría after his glorious game-winner against the Whitecaps. Tactics and Keys Similar to the Timbers, Chicago run a 4-2-3-1, with Nico Gaitan as their creative attacking spark, Nemanja Nikolić up top, and Aleksandar Katai and C.J. Sapong on the wings. Dax McCarty and Brandt Bronico are the holding midfielders, while Francisco Calvo and Bastian Schweinsteiger shore up the back line. Despite the lackluster record, Chicago has managed an impressive average of 14.2 shots per game, as well as a TSR of .580 that trails only Atlanta in the East (American Soccer Analysis). Portland can not afford to make stupid mistakes against a guy who’s scored 47 times in three years. Keys Set pieces—Portland has had their fair share of struggles defending set pieces lately. Chicago will use Nikolić to cause disruption off of Gaitan’s deliveries. Whether it be Cascante, Mabiala, or Tuiloma defending, clearances will be absolutely necessary. This is exactly what went wrong on last week’s goal, while the Fire scored two of their three goals against Montréal off corner kicks. Defending the right wing—Moreira has been an attacking and tackling power for Portland this season, but it has come at a cost. He is constantly caught out of position, leaving the opponent’s left wing exposed and forcing the Timbers into a back three. Sapong gets a lot of action down the left side, with Chicago using the left wing on 40% of their attacks (whoscored). The ability of Moreira and Mabiala to stop C.J. Sapong and close gaps in the back line will be paramount to Portland’s success. Counterattacking—it’s no secret that the Timbers like to counter—and with some of the most talented attackers in the league, they have the skills to get it done. Bastian Schweinsteiger has been a defensive presence since moving to center back, but there’s no reason Fernández, Blanco, & Co. can’t crack Chicago. Prediction: 2-0 Timbers Overall, this is Portland’s game to lose. A win is expected and anything less will be disappointing. We have seen the Timbers falter in this same position a few weeks ago, drawing both Colorado and Orlando at home, so it’s now time to atone for past mistakes and hit the mark. Match Info Kickoff: Wednesday, August 14th, 2019 at 8:00p Pacific Location: Providence Park, Portland, OR TV: Root Sports (Local, Comcast 34/DirecTV 687), Streaming on ESPN+ P.S.: Some personal news—this will be my first match in the press box! Big thanks to Doug, Kevin, and everyone else who’s helped me get here. Go Timbers!
A brace from Brian Fernández gave Portland the 2-1 win over Seattle on Sunday The Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers Cascadia rivalry is one of, if not the best rivalry in American soccer. The two clubs have history dating back 40 years when they both played in the North American Soccer League (NASL), and the passion has just grown since then. Sunday’s matchup between the two foes was no different. In typical derby fashion, the clash between the I-5 rivals never had a break from action. The Sounders nearly took the lead in the very first minute when a careless Timber turnover lead to a Raúl Ruidíaz breakaway. Due to a heavy first touch though, the chance was squashed by Portland keeper Steve Clark. The Timbers did draw first blood in the 20th minute. As their big time signing Brian Fernández rocketed a rebound off the cross bar back into the goal. Portland would take that 1-0 lead into halftime. Goals came fast entering the second half. Raúl Ruidíaz continued his hot streak as he walked in a goal in the 50th minute, it was his 8th goal in 12 games for the rave green. The Timbers didn’t allow the home faithful much time to celebrate their equalizer though. Brian Fernández secured the brace and win as he fired home a pass from teammate Sebastián Blanco. It was the designated player’s 8th goal on the season since joining the team this year. The game began to get very chippy as the second half went on. Both sides started to play more physical and official Drew Fischer allowed for the aggressive play to continue without stoppage. This led to both sides getting hot under the collar. This carried over passed the final whistle. Several different groups of players were engaged in extracurricular bickering on the pitch. Most notably was Sounders defender Roman Torres and Timber keeper Steve Clark. Clark had an amazing game in goal for Portland as he had seven saves on the day. However, many Seattle players were upset with his clearance of some shots and crosses. Clark punched away many of the shots, in doing so, ran into a few players including his own. This was not received well by the Sounders. This caused a mosh pit to form on the way to the tunnels, with the keeper in the center. Players were surly more frustrated due to the magnitude of the game. This wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last between these bitter rivals. With the loss the Sounders fall to 10-5-6 (35 points) but remain in 3rd in the west. The Timbers 8-4-8 (28 points) on the other hand, continue their rise back into a playoff spot as they currently sit at 9th out west. What’s next: Seattle @ Houston 7/27 LA Galaxy @ Portland 7/27
After a wacky home draw against Colorado, the Portland Timbers (7-3D-8, 24 pts) will host Orlando City SC (7-4D-9, 25 pts) on Thursday (??) night at Providence Park. The Timbers will be hoping they can replicate the Thorns’ dramatic win against the Orlando Pride from last Sunday. The Timbers are expected to roll out a weaker starting lineup for a number of reasons: First, the first MLS matchup against Seattle is looming on Sunday. While the Timbers and Sounders met in the U.S. Open Cup in June, this installment will be the first time both managers put out their best squads—and while they may meet in an American football stadium, it’s certainly a step up from a minor league baseball venue. Therefore, there’s a very slim chance head coach Giovanni Savarese will risk starting the likes of Diego Chará, Sebastián Blanco, or Diego Valeri against Orlando. Savarese has made it clear that he is not afraid to rest starters during busy weeks, especially against Eastern Conference opponents. This constant squad rotation is a trend Timbers fans will come to expect from Savarese (if they haven’t already). The following is a list of Portland’s remaining matches until Decision Day, along with how many full days separate each match: Date/Opponent Days of rest before each match July 18th vs Orlando 4 July 21st @ Seattle 2 July 27th vs LA Galaxy 5 August 4th @ Minnesota 7 August 7th @ Minnesota* 2 August 10th vs Vancouver 2 August 14th vs Chicago 3 August 18th vs Atlanta 3 August 23rd vs Seattle 4 August 27th or 28th** 3 or 4 August 31st vs Salt Lake 2, 3, or 7 September 7th vs Kansas City 6 September 15th vs DC 7 September 18th vs NYRB 2 September 22nd vs Minnesota 3 September 25th vs New England 2 September 29th @ KC 3 October 6th vs San Jose*** 6 * U.S. Open Cup Semifinal ** U.S. Open Cup Final (if necessary) *** MLS Decision Day While Portland’s final three months or so are loaded with home matches, they will rarely have more than a few days’ rest, especially if they beat Minnesota to make the U.S. Open Cup Final (which the Timbers will not be hosting, regardless of their opponent). Now to the starting lineups. Predicting Gio’s starting XI is always a daunting task, but this is who I think will start based on how the Timbers lined up in the last few matches: GK: Steve Clark—Clark stood on his head against Colorado, and will likely be called upon again. He is the clear starter over Jeff Attinella, who is nursing a bit of a right shoulder injury. LB: Jorge Villafaña—This might be the toughest position to predict. Although he has been absent from lineups since the match against FC Dallas a couple weeks ago with a minor left thigh injury, Villafaña may be called upon because of Marco Farfán going down with a more serious knee injury last match. CB: Bill Tuiloma and Claude Dielna—Tuiloma logged one half of play for T2 against Sacramento last Saturday, meaning he will probably continue to get reacquainted with the squad. Dielna has been one of the most improved players for the Timbers this season, and Larrys Mabiala will likely sit out before the Seattle match. Cascante is suspended from his straight red card as well, so he won’t be an option either. RB: Zarek Valentin—It’s more than likely that Moreira will be rested before the Seattle match. Unless Gio brings someone up from T2 to start at outside back, it will probably be Valentin and Villafaña holding down the defensive wings. Also note: Modou Jadama, who was brought up from T2 to start at right back in Montréal, will be questionable with a right lower leg injury. DM: Renzo Zambrano and Andrés Flores–Chará and Zambrano both went the full 90 against Colorado, the former doing the same at LAFC midweek as well. Flores is the likely replacement, although it will largely depend upon Cristhian Paredes‘ status—don’t be surprised to see him out there Thursday night, but he still seems to be the preferred partner to Chará in that holding midfield area. LM: Marvin Loría—Although appearing almost exclusively as a right winger for the first team, Loría is perfectly capable on the left. Unless Gio prefers Loría over Jeremy Ebobisse against Seattle, Loría will likely start over Blanco, if not replace him early in the second half. AM: Tomás Conechny—Gio loves the idea of getting the Argentine youngster more meaningful minutes, and this match against Orlando is the perfect opportunity to do so. Blanco and Valeri split time against LAFC and Blanco played the whole match against the Rapids, with Valeri playing 78 minutes. Also, if the Timbers aren’t starting an Argentine in central attacking midfield, are they really even the Timbers? RM: Andy Polo—Polo has yet to return to the pitch for Portland after playing in five out of Peru’s six Copa America matches. Asprilla looked—shall we say, inadequate—last Saturday and he or Loría are the only other players I could see starting here for this match. FW: Brian Fernández—Fernández was subbed on for Asprilla two-thirds of the way into the Colorado match, but only managed 12 touches and two blocked shots, as Portland were pinned in their own half with 10 men after the Cascante red card. I do not expect Fernández to play the full match, either as a starter or a substitute, and Ebobisse starting up top certainly makes sense as well considering the circumstances. In review, my best crack at a Timbers starting lineup looks this: In other news, known deviant Dom Dwyer will not be on the pitch at Providence Park Thursday after receiving a straight red card for this ill-advised elbow in the 93rd minute against Columbus. This is both great and mediocre news for the Timbers Army; Dwyer is a taunting character to say the least, but it’s always fun to see a Timbers win wipe a smile off his face. Overall, Thursday’s match will be an interesting one. Gio will almost certainly put out a B or C-level lineup, and Orlando also have an important Sunday match coming up against the Red Bulls. Gio’s substitutions will be the X-factor; we’ll see if he can make the adjustments to take all three points in the second half.
The Portland Timbers (7-2D-8, 23 pts) will be back at Providence Park Saturday night for a classic summer evening of fun and revelry. Their opponents, the Colorado Rapids (5-4D-10, 19 pts), find themselves in last place of the Western Conference standings after earning only a two points in their first 11 MLS matches. One of those points, of course, came against the Timbers during the infamous “Snow Clásico” season opener at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park way back in March. Despite having a goal and man advantage, the Timbers weren’t able to keep Colorado’s Andre Shinyashiki from scoring the latest of equalizers. Both teams struggled to find results before making drastic improvements, and both now find themselves in good form and ready to make a run toward the playoffs. The most surprising similarity between the two teams, though, was their results against league-leaders and Supporters’ Shield guarantors LAFC. Colorado and Portland both sat deep and absorbed over 60% possession from LAFC before grabbing second-half winners. While the Timbers definitely showed a bit more bite than Colorado going forward, three points against the clear MVP & co. is always a promising sign. Oh, by the way—LAFC have only lost three matches the entire season. Make no mistake, Portland will be fully expected to come away from tonight’s match with three points. The Timbers are fresh off two results that no other team has this season—winning in Yankee Stadium and Banc of California Stadium—in the same week. While some may point to the win against LAFC as an unimportant US Open Cup fixture, both managers clearly prioritized the match and put out first-team squads. Even more impressive was the performance at NYCFC, in which Portland outplayed the Eastern Conference giants without Diego Chará in the starting XI. Additionally, the Timbers have won six of their last seven matches in all competitions. (The lone blemish in Montreal was no surprise to anyone who glanced at the team sheets prior to kickoff—Giovanni Savarese basically brought a T2 squad with him and still nearly earned a midweek non-conference road point.) Since the grand re-opener against LAFC, Portland has won their three home matches by a combined score of 9-0. Colorado will also be missing an important piece of their squad: regular starting midfielder Kellyn Acosta picked up two yellow cards in added time of the Rapids’ home loss to New England last week. Overall, this is essentially a must-win for the Timbers. These are the exact home matches that Portland needs to earn points from to make up for the early-season road mistakes, especially against a Western Conference foe. Colorado will be hungry for points as well, but Portland knows they are the better squad and three points are expected. Prediction: 3-0 Portland
Today it was announced that two members of MLS’s Cascadia Cup rivalry were named to the MLS All-Star team’s 26-man roster. Sounders midfielder Nicolás Lodeiro and Timbers midfielder Diego Chara will both take part in the game, which will feature MLS stars taking on Atlético Madrid in Orlando on Wednesday, July 31. Both players were chosen for the game by head coach James O’Connor of Orlando City FC. Both will be making their first All-Star appearance. Below are excerpts from the respective teams’ press releases. Lodeiro has started all 14 of his appearances this season and is currently tied for fourth in MLS with eight assists, to go along with two goals. His 56 fouls suffered and 85 corner kicks lead MLS for the 2019 season, while his 1,326 touches rank fourth and his 99 duels won rank 15th. Last season, Lodeiro established a new single-season club record with 16 assists, in addition to a career-high eight goals. His 44 career MLS assists are the most in club history and rank first in MLS since Lodeiro entered the league in July of 2016. Currently with Uruguay at the 2019 Copa América, Lodeiro has started both matches for La Celeste and scored the opening goal in a 4-0 win over Ecuador on June 16. Chara is among the 26 MLS players selected to compete against La Liga side Atlético de Madrid at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday, July 31, at 5 p.m. (Pacific), live on FS1, UniMás, TSN and TVA Sports. Today’s announcement included 13 selections – including Chara – by MLS All-Star head coach James O’Connor, players from the previously announced MLS All-Star Fan XI presented by Target and two Commissioner’s picks. The announcement marks the first time Chara, who originally signed with the Timbers for their inaugural MLS season in 2011, has been named to the MLS All-Star roster. 2019 MLS ALL-STAR GAME ROSTER BY POSITION GOALKEEPERS: Andre Blake* (Philadelphia Union), Brad Guzan^ (Atlanta United), Nick Rimando# (Real Salt Lake) DEFENDERS: Matt Hedges* (FC Dallas), Kemar Lawrence* (New York Red Bulls), Romain Métanire* (Minnesota United FC), Leandro González Pírez^ (Atlanta United), Bastian Schweinsteiger* (Chicago Fire), Walker Zimmerman^ (Los Angeles Football Club), Graham Zusi^ (Sporting Kansas City) MIDFIELDERS: Ezequiel Barco^ (Atlanta United), Diego Chara* (Portland Timbers), Jonathan dos Santos^ (LA Galaxy), Mark-Anthony Kaye* (Los Angeles Football Club), Nicolás Lodeiro* (Seattle Sounders FC), Gonzalo “Pity” Martínez^ (Atlanta United), Maxi Moralez* (NYCFC), Nani^ (Orlando City SC), Paxton Pomykal# (FC Dallas), Alejandro Pozuelo* (Toronto FC), Diego Rossi* (Los Angeles Football Club) FORWARDS: Zlatan Ibrahimović^ (LA Galaxy – EA SPORTS™ “More Than a Vote” Challenge), Josef Martínez* (Atlanta United), Wayne Rooney^ (D.C. United), Chris Wondolowski* (San Jose Earthquakes), Carlos Vela^ (Los Angeles Football Club) ^Fan XI selection*James O’Connor selection#Commissioner Don Garber selection