Finally, after far too long, it is game day for the Portland Timbers. Debuting their new old style in their new look, the Timbers will take on Minnesota United today in the first match of the 2017 season, league wide. Expect the stadium to be buzzing, the tifo to be on point, and the Timbers to come out of the gates hot against their expansion opposition.
There should be no surprises in this match in lineup or approach for the Timbers. With the regrettable exception of Gbenga Arokoyo, the side is fully healthy and ready to go. That means that we can expect the Timbers’ full first team lineup, a group that has been established through most of the preseason, to be brought to bear on the Loons.
Gleeson; Vytas, Ridgewell, Olum, Powell; Guzman, Chara; Nagbe, Valeri, Blanco; Adi
The side’s return to a possession focused style of play brings with it a new set of challenges against a side like Minnesota. The Loons would like to play with possession themselves, but against a better established Timbers midfield they will likely look to break out of their end quickly through the likes of Kevin Molino and Johan Venegas, both players capable of creating chances on the counter.
To shut down Minnesota effectively, the Timbers’ defense will need to be on point. Center backs Lawrence Olum and Liam Ridgewell, as well as defensive midfielder David Guzman, will need to be proactive in snuffing out chances and will need to be aware of the spaces left by their full backs as Alvas Powell and Vytas press forward to add width to the attack. Olum in particular has looked on point during the preseason when it comes to emergency defending and if he can bring that same level of quality to this match the Timbers should be able to deal with Minnesota’s attack.
At the other end of the pitch there will be two big objectives for the Timbers’ attack.
First and foremost will be to get on the ball and stay on the ball, dictating the tempo of the game and wearing down Minnesota with possession. Hearkening back to the “Porterball” era of 2013, the Timbers will want to defend on the ball by playing smart passes and preventing their opponents from creating opportunities of their own.
The second objective for the Timbers attack will be to probe with possession and find the holes that they can exploit in the opposition defense. It is no mistake that the Timbers scored twice in quick succession down the left against the Vancouver Whitecaps, with Darlington Nagbe drawing players in before feeding Vytas down the line, and the Timbers will need to similarly find a weakness in Minnesota’s shape.
Watch it on: FOX Sports 1
When: Friday, March 3rd at 6:30 p.m. PT (although expect kickoff to come closer to 7:00)
Where: Providence Park in Portland, OR
Portland Timbers: Finished in 7th place in the Western Conference in 2016
Minnesota United: Finished in 8th place in the NASL in 2016