The Story So Far
With a late-week U.S. Open Cup tie, the Timbers extended their unbeaten run to 10 matches. Now it’s time to get back into the regular season as the World Cup break comes to an end. They’ll head out on the road to the Peach State and take on a very good Atlanta United squad, though they’re coming off a USOC loss to the Chicago Fire midweek.
This is the first time the Timbers will play at Mercedes Benz Stadium and just the second time the two teams have met. They met last summer for the first time ever at Providence Park with each team managing to come away with a point.
From Friend To Foe
Sunday will also mark the first time Darlington Nagbe will face his former club. He seems to have fit in with Tata Martino’s approach to the game, and Nagbe can be found doing Nagbe things which includes disappearing for stretches. But, he sets the tempo and is a chief cog in the Atlanta United machine.
I’ll be watching closely as he was one of my favorite Timbers, so I’ll always have a soft spot - just not when he plays against PTFC. Nope, no pity. But it will be sorta weird seeing him opposite the Green and Gold.
Atlanta United is number one in the Eastern Conference, five points ahead of New York City FC, and they’re averaging over two points a match. Josef Martinez is their leading scorer netting 14 goals so far this season. That will be a hard task for the Timbers defense, keeping track of Martinez at all times, but he’s just one of many.
The Five Stripes either come out in a 3412 or a 4231. Tata Martino seems to favor the 3421, but in the last two matches against Columbus and Chicago Fire he has gone with the 4231. It’ll be interesting to see exactly what they come up with.
Both Hector Villalba and Miguel Almiron played 90 minutes in their midweek loss to the Chicago Fire but will still most likely start for the Five Stripes. Other than those two, Martino rotated the squad for the USOC match; so I’d look for a first choice eleven on Sunday afternoon.
Keep an eye on Atlanta United’s $15 million dollar man, 18 year-old Ezequiel Barco. Depending on the formation, he’ll either be up top with Josef Martinez or if they go the lone striker route he’ll be on the left of a 4231. In ten appearances for the Five Stripes, he’s netted three goals and an assist. They have youth and goal scorers falling out of their pockets, the Timbers defense is going to need to buckle down Sunday.
On The Road Again
The Timbers have an interesting schedule coming up, first up Atlanta United in the ATL, Seattle in Seattle, San Jose at home, and then back on the road for two at LAFC - once in MLS play, and then again for the Open Cup quarterfinal. Right now, the Timbers road record is 2-3-2 - not what you’d call stellar. I think getting all three in Atlanta is a priority, nabbing some points off an East Coast club before going back to playing in the West would be great.
I wouldn’t expect too many surprises this weekend as far as the lineup goes, and most likely a return to the 4321, though I liked the look of that 442 Diamond with both Adi and Armenteros up top.
Questionable for the match are the usual suspects, Liam Ridgewell and Alvas Powell. With Vytas going 90 on Friday, he should be fine to play this weekend as well, but whether he gets the nod or not is another thing. Frankly, I’d like to see Farfan get more minutes or spend more time at T2 - no reason to gum up his development by having him sit on the bench a majority of the time.
Quick update on Andy Polo and David Guzman at the World Cup; Polo has yet to play for Peru and Guzman played all 90 in Costa Rica’s 2-0 loss to Brazil. Both Peru and Costa Rica have been eliminated from the World Cup with one match to play for both sides.
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