Philadelphia Union are probably one the hardest teams in the MLS to score on due to their propensity to just defend and counter. A lot of their games last year were close affairs, 1-0 wins, and they had their fair share of ties, 15 to be exact. Last year offensively the Portland Timbers had a hard time with Philadelphia and only managed 1 goal against them but defensively they were able to shut down Sebastian Le Toux and Company and did not allow a goal against. Portland was the only team to do so against Philadelphia.
What does Portland have to do this year? I will break it down to the three positions, Forwards, Midfielders and defenders/goalkeepers.
Portland will win if: Their Centerbacks to continue to be strong in the air as Philadelphia are looking to attack down the wings and swing the ball into the box. Portland's fullbacks also need to be strong defensively and shut down any attack that comes from the wings. If Portland can stifle the Union's wings this will severely hamper the Union's ability to score. Troy Perkins needs to communicate well with his defenders and attack any cross he can reasonably get.
Portland will lose/tie if: The wings allow the Union's wings to run roughshod over them and the Centerbacks do not win the aerial battle in the box. Or if Danny Mwanga is allowed to stretch the defense with balls over the top or played to his feet. If the Union can at times play off of Mwanga they have the midfield to create chances off his play. Danny is a physical specimen who plays tough and needs to be muscled of the ball as much as possible. He still has not found his scoring touch, but don't assume he won't try his luck from distance.
Portland will win if: Diego Chara is able to be the counter to Freddy Adu. If you stifle Freddy Adu you eliminate a lot of the Union's ability to possess the ball and thus their ability to play it down the wings. Stifling Freddy will be a team job as he likes to drift from his central location to the wings. Portland will have to win the center of the midfield and be the aggressor on all 50/50 balls.
Portland will lose if: Freddy is allowed time and space on the ball to create for his teammates. Freddy does well when giving time and space but if pressured he gets frustrated and tends to disappear from games. If Portland allows the wide players to link-up with Freddy it will be a long night for the Timbers.
Portland will win if: Kris Boyd does what he was brought into to do, stay in the box and score goals. The Union's biggest weakness last year was on set-pieces and defending crosses into their penalty area, which is why Portland gave them fits last year and could do so again this year. Boyd and his strike partner, most likely Jorge Perlaza, need to play like they played in the first half of the AIK game. If they do this against a opponent that has trouble dealing with balls into the box (AIK defenders were beastly in the box) they will score goals.
Portland will lose if: The Union's centerbacks are able to mark Boyd out of the game or if Jorge Perlaza is not able to get behind the defense. If Philly's backline is able to handle the balls into the box on set-pieces and during the run of play Portland will then be forced to play through the middle and this is not Portland's strong suit.
This is a game Portland that lends itself to Portland's strengths and because of this Portland the scoreline will be 2-0 with goals from Kris Boyd and Diego Chara.