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Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps Playoff Preview

Godofredo Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Win or draw, the Portland Timbers need to score some goals on Sunday when they head up north to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps in the second leg of the team's MLS Cup Playoff Semifinal match up if they want to advance. Carrying over a 0-0 scoreline from last weekend's home leg in Portland, the Timbers will need to put together another comprehensive performance in Vancouver and prove that BC Place is still "Our House In the Middle of BC".

Last week's match between the two teams was a tactical one, with both seeking to shut down their opponents through contrasting styles: the Timbers looked to get on the ball, control the pace of the game, and find their chances by holding the ball and dominating possession, defending with the ball as Caleb Porter called his team's style of play back in 2013; while the Whitecaps looked to sit back, absorb the Timbers pressure, and break down the field in the counterattacking style that they had so much success with on the road over the course of the year

This week it seems likely that the Timbers will look to do more of the same, but with a more aggressive bent, knowing that getting on the board will force the Whitecaps into a very uncomfortable spot after failing to get any goals on the road at Providence Park. To that end, the Timbers will still need to make sure that they are able to maintain the same strong defensive showing, as Vancouver pose a real threat of breaking out quickly and making their mark, despite having very few clear scoring chances in Portland last weekend.

To help the Timbers in this endeavor, the team should have some reinforcements returning to the lineup as Diego Chara and Adam Kwarasey return from a foot sprain and the flu, respectively. While Jack Jewsbury has been excellent in Chara's absence, the return of the Timbers' midfield talisman bodes well for the Timbers, particularly when looking to jumpstart the attack. While Jewsbury's passing and vision of the field are nothing to shake a stick at, he lacks the ability to launch forward and run the break when given an opportunity, something that Chara is more than able to do and that takes some of the pressure off of Darlington Nagbe to be the team's lone regular transition player between defense and attack. And, despite Jake Gleeson's tidy shutout last week, Kwarasey is still the team's No. 1 keeper -- and penalty kick hero to boot.

Beyond the returning players -- for both sides -- there will be one additional dimension to tomorrow's match: the length of the BC Place pitch. The Whitecaps' home field is seven yards longer than at Providence Park, giving speedsters like Kekuta Manneh room to turn on the jets and get in behind opposition defenses. Of course, that cuts both ways and the Timbers should look to selectively take advantage of that extra room and spring Lucas Melano out wide on the wing.

Some have called for Dairon Asprilla to start over Melano, but that swap seems unlikely following a series of solid, if not game-changing, starts from the Timbers' new designated player. The Timbers will be looking for a player to stretch the Whitecap's compact and competent defense out and, while Asprilla has proven to be an impactful sub recently, Melano still brings more in that regard.

Regardless, the Timbers will need someone to step up and make a difference in this one. In recent matches that has been Darlington Nagbe and it seems likely that he will once again be a major factor in this one, but the Timbers will need one of their goal scorers to make something happen here. Eyes have to be on Valeri for a bit of magic in this one, either with a through ball like the one that played in Maximiliano Urruti for his off-the-post effort late in last week's game or a cracking shot the likes of which he has struggled to get off cleanly this season.

Match Information

Watch it on: FOX Sports 1

Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. PT at BC Place in Vancouver, BC, Canada