The Story So Far
With the international break over, we can return to our regularly scheduled programming. The last time we saw the boys in green and gold was the derby with Seattle that finished in a 1-1 draw, a decent result on the road in a hostile environment. It was enough to keep Seattle first and Portland second in the West.
Now the Timbers take the show back on the road with a two-match swing through New York and Salt Lake City. First up? New York City FC. They’re coming off a 1-0 win against a rusty Sporting Kansas City side in the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium. Can the Timbers continue their quest to the top of the table? Or will NYCFC prevail as they chase the Supporters Shield?
Injuries are part of the game, as the Timbers know better than anyone, but if you look over NYCFC’s way, they’re a lot worse off. The international break was not kind to them, as they lost David Villa, their captain and leading scorer. He’s among seven players that won’t be facing the Timbers: Ronald Matarrita, Miguel Camargo, Maxime Chanot, Ethan White, Mikey Lopez and Alexander Ring.
It makes our injury woes look like a drop in a bucket.
The green and gold will be without the services of captain Liam Ridgewell, as well as Fanendo Adi, Jake Gleeson, and Chance Myers. Two of those injuries were supposed to be minor, yet they’re not getting healthy. I just don’t know what to think of the Timbers’ training and medical staff.
If we’re going to make a good playoff run, we need at least Adi and Gleeson back. I’d still start Jeff Attinella because he’s put in good work and keeps getting better, but at least we’d know the Timbers had an option at keeper going into the playoffs. That’s a big question mark, as we don’t know when either could return to the starting eleven.
Third Time's the Charm
These two teams have only met twice before this season, each team winning their match on the road, so there is a precedent here. Coming into this match, NYCFC is on a five-match unbeaten run, which sets a club record. But as you know, records are made to be broken—and the Timbers have never lost at Yankee stadium.
Villa, who has 19 goals this season, is the biggest loss for NYCFC. Their second-best goal scorer this season is Jack Harrison, with nine. In other words, their production really falls off after Villa, and that’s something the Timbers could exploit.
On Wednesday night, NYCFC’s manager, Patrick Vieira, had his team in a different look. While normally they play a 4-3-3, they came out in a 4-2-3-1 with Andrea Pirlo and Ring as the double pivot.
One thing I hope the Timbers take note of is that the sod that covers the infield at Yankee Stadium is going to run faster than the outfield grass the rest of the pitch is on—not to mention the fact that the pitch is the size of a postage stamp.
NYCFC like to play wide using the wings, letting them cut in towards the box. One of their wings is former Timber Rodney Wallace. He wasn’t in the 18 against SKC, but I suspect he’ll play if Vieira plays the 4-3-3. This would be Wallace’s first time facing his former club.
When I Root, I Root For The Timbers
The Timbers will be coming into this one fully rested and ready to go. NYCFC, on the other hand, will only have a few days’ rest, which hopefully the Timbers can take advantage of. On the other hand, it’s possible they could show some rust and have a hard go of it.
The question will be whether Jeremy Ebobisse or Darren Mattocks starts up top for the Timbers. I’m pretty sure I already know the answer is Mattocks, and it doesn’t make me happy. He hasn’t been great, but maybe the extra rest (he didn’t get called up to the Jamaican national team this break) will give him a boost.
Diego Valeri has scored in six consecutive matches, meaning he just needs one more to tie the MLS record. It sure would be nice to see him tie the record and maybe even own it.
With the Sporks losing Wednesday night, the Timbers remain in second place just one point off the conference-leading Seattle Sounders. According to FiveThirtyEight.com and SportsClubStats.com, the Timbers have around a 91% chance of making the playoffs with six matches left.
Those six matches are split right down the middle: three on the road and three at home. You expect to win at home and at least get a point on the road, but I’m not settling—NYCFC’s defense has holes. The have a knack for coming from behind to win, which really means their offense has to compensate for the ineptness of their defense.
Who should start at NYCFC?
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