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Storylines: Toronto FC vs Portland Timbers

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The Timbers head back to the Great White North, this time to Toronto.

MLS: Toronto FC at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far

The Timbers did everyone a solid by spanking the LA Galaxy at home and picking up a much needed three points, thanks to goals from Diego Valeri, Liam Ridgewell and Alvas Powell. It was a happy day in Soccer City USA.

Now the Timbers travel to the Great White North and face Canada’s other team: Toronto FC. This will be a big test for the Timbers as they face one of the most dangerous teams in the East. Not only do the Reds lead their conference, they also lead in the Supporters Shield race. Behind them by three points are the Chicago Fire.

Toronto FC didn’t fare well last weekend as they traveled to RFK to take on the league's worst team in D.C. United. If it wasn’t for Steve Birnbaum’s own goal in the 52nd minute, Toronto would have lost. They were just baffled by whatever DCU was doing to them.

Cuts Like A Knife

For the most part this season, TFC have been lights out but in their last six they haven’t been so lights out with a 2-1-3 run. Still nine points in six is nice, though the draw at RFK didn’t help put any distance between them and the Fire.

While the Reds are good on the road, they’re even better at BMO Field; tied with the Houston Dynamo for the second best home record in the league (8-0-3). It’s no small task going in there and escaping with all three points.

They come out in a 3-5-2, though at times Michael Bradley will drop back almost to the center-backs and give more of a 3-1-4-2 look. Either way, they had major problems unlocking DCU’s 4-2-3-1.

D.C. cut off the midfield not allowing TFC to come through the center of the pitch (more on that later). So if the Timbers can clog up the middle a la D.C. United, I think there’s a chance at some points in this match.

Right Through You

As mentioned above, choke off the middle of the pitch and TFC are going to have a hell of a time attacking. They like to come at you through the midfield with short passes and Michael Bradley spraying the ball wherever he wants. One thing I noticed with DCU is that they pressed on Bradley hard - forcing him to rush his passes and not get a full look at the pitch in front of him.

When Toronto does get into the attacking third, they love shooting from distance, so don’t be surprised at how many shots they take from outside the box. For example, this is TFC’s shots on goal against D.C. United.

Nine shots outside the box, this will be something that the Timbers will have to look for and Jake Gleeson is going to have to be hyper alert. Giovinco, if you noticed, has more shots from outside the box than from the inside. If he sees Gleeson even a millimeter off his line, he’s going to let one rip.

The Time Is Now

Here’s the deal; the schedule isn’t getting any easier and there are only 10 matches left. A possible 30 points up for grabs and with the team now healthy (for the most part), if the Timbers are going to make the playoffs and climb the table, the time is now. It’s time to grind out these last 10 matches before the playoffs.

But first, they have to get past a team with a lot of weapons at their disposal. The obvious two to look out for are Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. Giovinco currently leads the team with 11 goals; all but 3 coming at home. Altidore has 9 goals all season with 4 coming at home. Don’t let those two distract you too much, though, because here comes Victor Vazquez from the midfield with his 4 goals on the season, scoring half of those at home.

Can an (almost) healthy Timbers team play toe to toe with the best team in MLS? I think so. It should be noted that Jamie Goldberg has reported both Captain Liam Ridgewell and Fanendo Adi are listed as questionable. Darren Mattocks is also in the questionable category with a shoulder issue.

Currently, PTFC sit at 5th place in the Western Conference; only 3 points off first place Sporting Kansas City. Not only did SKC have a U.S. Open Cup match this week, they face the Sounders a few days later in Seattle. By the end of the weekend, we could have a shakeup at the top of the table.

As far as points per game go, the Timbers are sitting in 6th place just above the red line (1.42), which to be honest still makes me a bit nervous. On the bright side, they’re only .06 points away from being tied for 3rd.

Roy Miller who has been low-key good this season has the night off due to yellow card accumulation.