It’s been an eventful week for the Portland Timbers. After picking up their third consecutive road win, the Timbers confirmed their biggest signing in club history, Brian Fernández, from Necaxa in Liga MX. Fernández will not be available for this match as part of his spitting suspension, but the Timbers are still in good form, with wins over Columbus, Toronto, and Salt Lake in their last three matches.
The Timbers are still yet to play at home this season due to the Providence Park expansion project—which, by the way, is looking stellar:
Finally, Portland said goodbye to midfielder David Guzmán this week. Guzmán logged 50 MLS regular season and playoff appearances for the Timbers and was a crucial part of last year’s miracle run to MLS Cup. Guzmán was rotated out of the squad, being replaced by the 20-year-old Cristhian Paredes over the course of this season. He will be missed dearly by the Timbers community.
Alright, back to business. Vancouver sits at 11th in the Western Conference and have only won two matches all year. That being said, this is still Major League Soccer, and the Whitecaps are still a dangerous squad. Let’s take a look at what the Timbers are up against.
Despite struggling to find their footing this season, the Whitecaps have performed well against quality opponents this year; splitting points with Seattle in the opening Cascadia Cup match of the season and handing league-leaders LAFC their lone loss in maybe the most surprising result of the MLS campaign thus far. It is also worth noting that (much like the Timbers) Vancouver held their own in the first half against the LA Galaxy before getting Zlatan’d.
Vancouver earned their second win of the season last week in a 3-2 barn-burner against the dismal Colorado Rapids on Friday. Colorado had just fired their head coach, Anthony Hudson, after earning just 2 points from 9 matches. Yet, the Rapids looked promising—the match was tied at 2 goals apiece when Diego Rubio’s outburst shrunk the squad to 10 men in the 77th minute. Vancouver had their winner 10 minutes later, courtesy of substitute Andrew Rose.
Giovanni Savarese has finally been able to settle on a consistent formation and personnel. His 4-4-2 emphasizes a semi-press and wing play—although the Timbers still have the ability to combine through the middle when the wings are covered. Vancouver has struggled to defend against aerial threats, so attacking the wide spaces and creating heading chances for Jeremy Ebobisse or Larrys Mabiala in the box could be crucial for Portland.
One nagging weakness since switching to the 4-4-2 has been goalkeeper distribution, which seems to have been solved with the replacement of Steve Clark for Jeff Attinella in goal. Clark has recorded 19 accurate passes per game at a 66% success rate, eclipsing Attinella’s 13.6 on 58% accuracy. Clark’s stellar six-save performance against Real Salt Lake on Saturday—including a first
Although neither side tends to control the ball in possession, Portland is more likely to do so in this match. The Timbers have drastically improved their passing in the last three weeks. Since switching to the 4-4-2, Portland is completing 318.7 short passes per game, up from 308.3 in the 4-2-3-1 and 289 in the 5-3-2.
|Formation||Matches used||Accurate short passes per match||Accurate long balls per match||Accurate passes per match|
Passing stats from whoscored.com.
Defensively, Portland has been disciplined in positioning and workrate, allowing a season-low 1 goal each game during the 3-match win streak. The biggest problem for Portland’s back line has been clearing the ball. Each one of those 3 goals could have easily been prevented by minimal clearances from Attinella, Zarek Valentin, and Mabiala, respectively.
Keys to success for the Timbers, summarized:
- Goalkeeper distribution
- Aerial targets in Vancouver’s 18
- Clearing the ball
- This is the second match of the supporter-owned Cascadia Cup competition, and the first for Portland. Seattle and Vancouver drew 0-0 in BC Place on March 30th.
- Portland is yet to record a clean sheet this season.
- Vancouver has conceded 6 goals in 5 home matches so far this season. 5 of those goals have come between the 60th and 75th minutes.
- Every competitive match between Portland and Vancouver since 2017 has ended with a score of 2-1.
Prediction: 1-0 Timbers
Possession and chances will likely be even, with the elusive Fredy Montero looking to find pockets of space between Portland’s center backs. Look for the Timbers to deny passing lanes in Vancouver’s half and get the ball to Sebástian Blanco or Jorge Moreira on either wing. If the Timbers score first, they will likely drop back and look for counter-attacking opportunities.
Time: Friday, May 10th @ 7:30 p.m. PT
Location: BC Place, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
TV: KPDX (local), ESPN+ (national)
Radio: 750 AM/102.9 FM The Game
Odds from Bovada (as of 5/9): Vancouver +135, Draw +265, Timbers +180