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Storylines: Portland Timbers vs Orlando City

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The Timbers return home to face a team that they haven’t beaten in two tries.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Orlando City SC Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far

The Timbers four-game unbeaten run came to an end in Sandy, Utah as the Timbers fell to Real Salt Lake 2-1 over the weekend. Good news is, they remain second in the West just a point behind the leaders the Vancouver Whitecaps. It’ll be a race to the finish line with just four matches remaining in the regular season.

It’s time for the Timbers to get back to their winning ways and partake in some home cooking as Mickey Mouse FC Orlando City SC come to visit. Will the Timbers tame the Lions or will OCSC steal points in the Timbers’ house?

Third Time's A Charm

This will be the third meeting in as many years. In 2015, Orlando beat the Timbers at home 2-0 and then in 2016 the Timbers traveled to Orlando where they were handed a four goal beat down with the final being 4-1. While it’s a small sample size, it doesn’t sway in the Timbers favor.

The Lions have enjoyed a semi-return to form, though they have only 1 win in their last six road matches, and that was against a hapless DCU squad. While not quite out of it yet, the Lions are looking at missing the playoffs unless they really turn it on down the home stretch. The exact opposite is happening to the Timbers, they’re pretty much set for the playoffs and a possible first round bye.

Diamonds Are Forever?

Since his days at RSL, Jason Kreis likes to run a 4-4-2 diamond, it’s his signature formation that he’s used the most often throughout this season, though they have had different looks at times. Look for Dom Dwyer and Cyle Larin to start up top with either Giles Barnes or Kaka at the tip of the diamond. If Kaka starts, Barnes will move out wide on the left. It could also be a combination of Barnes/Larin up top with Dwyer as offense off the bench.

No matter who starts, look for them to pump the ball into the box as much as possible. The key to unlocking Orlando’s defense is pretty simple: force them to play wide, spreading them out as far as possible.

They’ll try and keep the midfield compact with the wide players tucking in at times. Forcing them wide should allow the Timbers to take on their fullbacks (Danny Toia and Scott Sutter) in 1 v 1 situations, which is something they don’t excel at. Because the wide players are pinched in, the FBs are left open to those types of situations.

Onward Rose City

The Timbers have a chance get back to their winning ways after their four-match unbeaten run came to an end in Utah. Now the Timbers are home for one, on the road for one, and close out the season with two at home. I think the rest of the schedule favors the Timbers, especially the teams they will be facing: Orlando, San Jose, D.C. United and finally a showdown with the Vancouver Whitecaps.

San Jose on the road is doable and the Timbers should get a good result on the road. Then it’s home for D.C. United and the Whitecaps. As I’ve harped on all season, you have to at least get an at least a point on the road and you should win at home.

We’re getting to my favorite time of the season: things are just starting to wind up for the playoffs as teams jostle for position. Right now, FiveThiryEight has the Timbers with a 97% chance of making the playoffs and a 34% for getting a first round bye. The stretch run is going to be fun to watch.

A quick look at injuries: they’re about the same, except Adi is expected to start training today and could see minutes off the bench on Sunday. That means we’ll see most likely Darren Mattocks up top in the 4-2-3-1. Our back four will include Liam Ridgewell I’m sure. He’s healthy and CP will start him without a second thought.

The question for me is: Who starts in goal?

My line of thinking is you should go with who you started last and that’s Jeff Attinella. At this point, Jake Gleeson should be the backup. Jeff I think is good to go, and why start a guy who hasn’t played in like a month. I’m hoping this offseason the front office takes a real good look at the goalkeeping situation and maybe start looking at other solutions.