The Portland Timbers are on the road this weekend, headed south for their first true away preseason game in years. With an eye toward last season’s abysmal road record, the Timbers will hope that Saturday’s match against the LA Galaxy will help to get the team primed for a more successful year of matches away from Providence Park.
Coming into the match, the Timbers will have less than a week until the season kicks off and it will be the side’s last chance to run out their full starting XI before the results begin to matter. To that end, the Timbers should be back at full strength going into the match as Sebastian Blanco is back with the side following his temporary return to Argentina to move his family to the states.
The one spot where the Timbers remain less than settled is at center back, where the side has yet to bring in a replacement for Gbenga Arokoyo after he ruptured his Achilles tendon early in the preseason. With no direct replacement yet signed and presumed 3rd center back Roy Miller still with Saprissa through the end of the month, veteran defender Lawrence Olum will certainly get the start once again alongside Liam Ridgewell.
This pairing has looked good, but has been largely untested throughout the preseason thanks to the Timbers’ stellar midfield play and the lack of attacking bite from the Timbers first team’s preseason opposition so far. The Galaxy should provide more of a challenge for the Timbers, running out a definitely first choice lineup as the regular season swiftly approaches. LA will not quite be at full strength, however, as they will be missing left back Robbie Rogers and, crucially, starting forward Gyassi Zardes due to injuries.
Still, the LA midfield features recent USMNT debutante Sebastian Lletget, as well as Jermaine Jones, new designated player signing Romain Alessandrini, and the focal point of the new-look Galaxy, Giovanni Dos Santos. As such, the home side should be up for the challenge of taking away the Timbers’ midfield dominance and bringing to the table some threats that the Timbers have yet to see this season.
In particular, the pairing of Diego Chara and David Guzman in the center of the pitch will be tested by this Galaxy side as the Timbers’ pair of midfield destroyers will need to be wary of the movement of the free-roaming Galaxy attack.
Similarly, the Timbers full backs, who have prospered in the side’s current tactical approach, will need to be wary of the Galaxy’s players out wide while also providing the same width and penetration in the attack that the Timbers have enjoyed throughout the preseason. Alessandrini and others provide a real attacking threat down the wings for the Galaxy and the recovery runs of Powell and Vytas will need to be timely to prevent the Timbers’ defensive shape from falling apart.
In the attack the focus should be on getting production from across the pitch and creating chances from all angles of approach. If the Timbers can run the attack through Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri, and Sebastian Blanco, they will be better prepared to exploit opposition defenses in a variety of ways, rather than in the somewhat lopsided way that the Timbers were forced into in 2016 by the presence of Lucas Melano.
Nagbe and Blanco, as well as Valeri and Fanendo Adi in the center of the pitch, have had their moments this offseason, but a comprehensive showing from the Timbers’ attack in this match would be greatly heartening as the side tries to return to glory and fully put 2016 behind them.
Watch it on: Streaming on Timbers.com
When: Saturday, February 25th at 8:00 p.m. PT
Where: StubHub Center in Carson, CA
Portland Timbers: Finished in 7th place in the Western Conference in 2016
LA Galaxy: Finished in 3rd place in the Western Conference in 2016