The Portland Timbers are on the East Coast for the first time this year with the aim of taking on one of Major League Soccer's new arrivals: New York City FC. Far from home and coming off a hard loss to Orlando City SC, the Timbers find themselves in a tough situation, but will want to show that they are capable of rebounding and, more importantly, winning.
Following on the heels of last Sunday's home performance against Orlando City, the Timbers are almost certain to make some changes. Whether those changes will be far reaching or some small tweaks, however, remains to be seen.
If there is one change to the Timbers' likely lineup that we can be fairly sure of, it is the inclusion of Jack Jewsbury for George Fochive. While Fochive performed admirably in his early appearances this year, he looked out of his depth in terms of experience, passing, and positioning against Orlando last weekend. Jewsbury, meanwhile, made an immediate impact when introduced at halftime, providing accurate passing and solid defending in the middle of the park for the Timbers.
From there things start to get somewhat more muddled. At the top of the Timbers' formation Fanendo Adi and Maximiliano Urruti have struggled to get on the same page and make any sort of connection, either through passing or even their spacing as they pair have regularly failed to make room for each other when played side by side in the attack.
The pair's struggles have lead to unceasing debates over what to change in order to get some production out of the Timbers' strikers. Whether that means introducing Gaston Fernandez for one or the other, bringing Darlington Nagbe into the center of the pitch like we saw earlier in the season, or even giving Dairon Asprilla a run out at forward, all sorts of ideas have been thrown out there. Which idea Caleb Porter will decide on, however, remains a mystery.
Adi has scored three goals for the Timbers so far this season, leading the team and putting him in a nine-way tie for to be the second most prolific scorer in the league, and is a designated player, leading many to believe that he is not going to be displaced. Urruti, however, has seen significant time spent on the bench since the arrival of Adi and could be relegated to his role as the super-sub once again for this match.
Finally, the last position in true limbo for the Timbers is tied in tightly to the forwards: the wide attacking midfielders. With Rodney Wallace struggling of late without the influence of Diego Valeri in the center of the pitch, the Timbers could try out a different look on the wing. Asprilla and new arrival Ishmael Yartey are both real possibilities to push Wallace out of the starting XI. Both players seem to be pacey and have a knack for taking players on. Yartey, however, seems to favor a direct approach to goal, while Asprilla has played more like a winger in his time on the pitch, moving the ball up and down the flank and looking to get to the end line and make something happen from there.
New York City FC
Winless in their last four matches, NYCFC have struggled to put together a consistent level of play. Despite keeping it close in each of their matches so far, NYC have rarely looked like a team in danger of taking home all three points. Even the side's lone win came against a floundering New England Revolution before they found their footing in recent weeks.
Things are not looking likely to get any easier for the new New York side after being hit with a bevy of injuries since their mid-week 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union. Jason Hernandez, Jason Kreis's first choice centerback alongside Real Salt Lake old boy Chris Wingert, will miss tonight's match with a calf strain, while New York's highest profile player, forward David Villa, could also miss the match as he recovers from a strained hamstring.
Villa, of course, is a legend with the Spanish national team and is the country's all-time leading goalscorer in international play. For New York he has been a constant threat in the center of the pitch, providing the same sort of game-changing spark as players like Robbie Keane or Obafemi Martins.
With potentially Villa out of the line up, it seems likely that New York will be forced to make some drastic changes to their lineup. While Patrick Mullins could slot in for Villa, it seems more likely that Kreis will opt to change up his formation to make use of his depth in the midfield in the absence of his star forward.
Sebastian Velasquez and Kwadwo Poku are both young, attacking talents that could be inserted into the midfield to help drive NYC forward. More likely, however, is the reintroduction of Mix Diskerud who missed the midweek match while on duty with the United States Men's National Team.
Diskerud, who score NYC's first ever MLS goal, will prove influential in this match no matter where he lines up, but this match could see Kreis handing the reins of the attack over to the young national teamer. Diskerud has shown plenty of attacking flair both with NYC and with the USMNT, but he has never been particularly consistent in his performances.
Watch it on: FOX Sports 1
Kickoff: 4:00 pm pacific at Yankee Stadium in New York City, New York
Portland Timbers: 1-2-3, 10th place in the Western Conference
New York City FC: 1-2-3, 7th place in the Eastern Conference