Today the Portland Timbers are as far away from Portland as they are going to get while still playing in Major League Soccer, visiting sunny Florida to take on Orlando City SC in their fourth match of the 2016 MLS season.
For the Timbers, the solidity of the back line remains the main question that the team must answer. Team captain Liam Ridgewell is still unavailable as he recovers from the hamstring strain that has sidelined him since the season opener, meaning that Jamaican international Jermaine Taylor will once again partnered up with Nat Borchers in the center of the defense. Additionally, the Timbers' ongoing issue to start the season -- who will play at left back -- continues to raise eyebrows with newcomer Jack Barmby now entering contention for a potential start.
While the season's presumed starter, Chris Klute, continues his return from offseason surgery and the ensuing complications that have held him back since, Barmby has emerged as a potential challenger for the Timbers' defensive utility-player, Zarek Valentin. While it remains to be seen how Barmby's defensive prowess stacks up against MLS's caliber of play, the Leicester City loanee has some experience at left back and has been regularly training at the position with the Timbers since joining the team. Valentin may be a known quantity with the Timbers -- and one who has noticeably settled into the left back spot as the season has progressed -- but Barmby likely brings a decidedly attacking mindset to the position and, as he is nominally an attacking midfielder, should add something to the Timbers ability to combine and provide service from the left wing. Of course, any attack-minded fullback is going to be a gamble, particularly one that has not yet had the opportunity to develop an understanding with his fellow defenders.
Whichever player does get the start, they will need to be prepared to face off against a smart and fluid Orlando attack as the Brazilian legend Kaka is set to return to the Orlando lineup. With Kaka on hand, Orlando will likely look to use their playmaker to -- like they did last year -- drag the Timbers' midfield out of position and exploit the ensuing spaces that are created in which to work. Diego Chara may be as close to omnipresent as a human-being can possibly get, but to combat the movement of Orlando the Timbers will need disciplined and productive defensive performances from Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri in addition to their ability to transition the Timbers into the attack.
Watch it on: FOX Sports 1
Kickoff: 5:00 p.m. PT at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL
Portland Timbers: 1-1-1, 9th place in the Western Conference
Orlando City SC: 1-0-2, 4th place in the Eastern Conference