Update: The match’s start time has been pushed back from 4:00 p.m. PT to 5:00 p.m. PT due to the heat in Washington.
The Portland Timbers have headed across the country to the District of Columbia, where they will look to pick up their first road win of the season against a struggling D.C. United side who are quickly falling out of playoff contention in the East.
Still, Despite D.C.’s struggles, the Timbers have a hard test in front of them, made all the more difficult by the team’s continuing injury issues. With Alvas Powell now out in addition to Zarek Valentin, Liam Ridgewell, and Nat Borchers, the Timbers will once again be rolling out a cobbled together back line, likely featuring the duo of Amobi Okugo and Jermaine Taylor in the center of the pitch, flanked by Vytas and T2 regular Taylor Peay.
While the team’s travails along the back line have had a regular impact on the Timbers’ a more recent issue for the side is a sudden lack of holding midfielders. While Jack Jewsbury is available, the Timbers find themselves without regular contributors Ben Zemanski and Diego Chara due to injury and suspension, respectively. The hole left alongside Jewsbury in the center of the pitch seems likely to be filled by bringing Darlington Nagbe inside and giving him another chance as the Timbers’ No. 8 — the spot that saw Nagbe come to life late in the 2015 season as the Timbers went on their playoff run.
Bringing Nagbe into the center of the pitch and allowing him to roam free from flank to flank will give the Timbers an excellent set up to break quickly down the pitch — the side’s strength no matter what their line up. By getting the ball to Nagbe somewhat deeper down the pitch than we have seen for the majority of this year, the Timbers give Nagbe more room to create separation, draw defenders to him, and pick out a pass, rather than getting him on the ball further down the pitch where the opposition can swarm all over him before he can influence the play.
Watch it on: KPDX
Kickoff: 5:00* p.m. PT at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C.
*Kickoff was previously at 4:00 p.m. PT but was moved due to the heat.
Portland Timbers: 8-8-8, 6th place in the Western Conference
D.C. United: 5-8-9, 8th place in the Eastern Conference