Both teams are currently hovering around the very important thin-red-line in the Western Conference and a win for either will help shape the narrative around the long break in their respective markets. "Is this a sign they'll turn things around?", "Why is the season spiraling out of control?", "Does this team need an injection of grit?, "Generic platitude that is strongly worded!!" and so on and so forth.
The Portland Timbers
The Timbers are playing their third match in an eleven day span, after a 1-1 draw against Chicago Fire in the Windy City on Saturday. Hopefully, someone gave out some Five-Hour Energies because that game was a pure slog to get through. As Chris noted in his 3 Questions, the Timbers backline engaged in rather lackadaisical play at times, while the offense looked wholly uninspired. Diego Valeri was able to transform into el maestro in bits and spurts, but received little to no help from Dairon Asprilla (still trying to get into form), Jack McInerney (who reinforced the importance of Adi), and Lucas Melano. Lucas Melano continued to be the unicorn that he is: beautiful to look at, probably very expensive to own, and not particularly effective at manual labor.
In practice this week, Caleb Porter revealed that Mattocks and Powell would still be out for this game, but could be back on June 18th. He also stressed the importance of defense and challenged the team to it's first clean sheet of the season. Fingers crossed. Given the injuries, I suspect we'll see the exact 4-2-3-1 as with Chicago, only with Adi starting up top in place of Jack Mack, due to Taylor and Nagbe's national team call ups.
The San Jose Earthquakes.
The Quakes are coming off of their own snooze fest of a game, drawing against FC Dallas at home 0-0. The MLS recap for the match was a masterstroke of brevity, simply saying "The San Jose Earthquakes and FC Dallas played to a 0-0 draw with neither club able to mount much offense," before just listing out the perfunctory stats. I don't think I could say it any better.
Copa America is just killing San Jose, with leading scorer Chris Wondolowski and starting midfielders Simon Dawkins, Anibal Godoy and Alberto Quintero on international duty. The quartet have accounted for 12 of the club's 16 goals.
In April, the last time the teams played, the Timbers were able to cut up San Jose with quick counters to earn a 3-1 victory. Given the impotency of the Quakes offense due to absences, that blue print may not be able to be reused; instead the Timbers should look to pressure high, hard and early knowing San Jose won't be able to transition and take advantage without their usual offensive components.
This is a game that just begging for the Timbers to take control and earn 3 points at home: tonight we'll see if they have that killer instinct.