The Portland Timbers wrap up their slate of home preseason games on Wednesday with a match against their Cascadian rivals, the Vancouver Whitecaps. Both sides come into this match having draw their previous two games, so a decisive victory could put either side at the top of the Rose City Invitational’s non-existent table, so long as they outscore the possible winner of the day’s earlier match, Real Salt Lake vs. Minnesota United.
In Wednesday night’s match, the Timbers are expected to play their first team, giving their preferred starting XI a full-game run out after limiting them to sixty minutes on Thursday and thirty on Sunday. There will be some pieces missing, however, as the Timbers will be forced to do without new designated player Sebastian Blanco as he returns to Argentina to help his wife, who Caleb Porter tells us is pregnant, complete their move to the US.
Additionally, several Timbers will likely still be limited in the minutes that they will be available to play. Fanendo Adi and potential Blanco replacement Darren Mattocks seem like the most likely culprits here, with both having suffered knocks during the preseason. Mattocks suffered his more recently, missing out on Sunday’s match with a shoulder issue, but Porter confirmed after that match that he should be available against Vancouver.
Of course, despite playing on the wing for the Timbers for much of 2016, Mattocks is not guaranteed to take Blanco’s spot in the XI. The Timbers have been primarily using the Jamaican attacker as a striker in 2017 and could instead give one of the side’s other depth pieces a chance with the starters. Dairon Asprilla, Victor Arboleda, and Jack Barmby have all had their moments over the course of the preseason and, having played the majority of the match on Sunday, could each get a shift against the Whitecaps. Likely reading too much into things, Arboleda seems like a good prospect here after coming off for Blanco after a protective first half against Minnesota over the weekend.
The rest of the Timbers’ lineup against the Whitecaps should be fairly straightforward, with no changes looking particularly likely in the side.
What the Timbers’ opponents will look like is somewhat up in the air. While the Timbers follow a straightforward plan in the preseason for playing their starters and reserves, the Caps have followed a less strict preseason format. Regardless, most of the players that ran the Timbers off the pitch in their 4-1 loss to close out the 2016 season and lose out on lifting the Cascadia Cup will still be around and should be in the XI. Newcomers like right back Jacob Nerwinski and forward Yordy Reyna could get into the lineup, and old foe Pedro Morales is no longer with the side, but most of the Vancouver lineup will be comprised of familiar faces.
No matter who the Timbers are facing, the priority will have to be on putting forward a comprehensive defensive performance while still getting the attacking output that the team has seen in recent matches. The loss of Blanco for the match will make things difficult for the side, but a strong defensive showing here will go a long way toward assuaging the fears of a fan base who were let down by last year’s abysmal, worst-in-the-West goals against record.
Watch it on: Streaming on Timbers.com
When: Wednesday, February 15th at 7:30 p.m. PT
Where: Providence Park in Portland, OR
Portland Timbers: Finished 7th in the Western Conference in 2016
Vancouver Whitecaps: Finished 8th in the Western Conference in 2016