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Storylines: LAFC vs Portland Timbers

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Can the run continue?

DC United v Los Angeles FC Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Story So Far

While it was a bit nervy at the end, the Timbers extended their unbeaten run to 13 matches across all competitions by beating the San Jose Earthquakes 2-1. Now they must face a red-hot LAFC, who are unbeaten in their last five — including a 4-1 drubbing of one of the most hapless teams in MLS, Orlando City.

The Timbers will travel to the City of Angels to make their first appearance at Banc of California stadium. The last time the Timbers and LAFC met was back on May 19th, when the Timbers would get the win 2-1. Now the Timbers have a chance to beat them twice: once on Sunday and then again on Wednesday in a U.S. Open Cup match.

Can the Timbers extend their streak, or will LAFC have something to say about it?

Double Nines

Let’s be honest, Samuel Armenteros has been a revelation; so much so, that it’s forced Savarese to bench Fanendo Adi. Think about that for a second: The Timbers have a DP taking up bench space. I don’t know about you, but it’s a colossal waste of money having your designated player riding the pine, and I’m sure Adi isn’t all that happy either.

What do you do with a DP who’s, for the most part, fallen out of favor with the manager and is now seen as an option off the bench? I respect and admire the things he’s done for this club, but it might be time to move on.

With the transfer window now open, maybe it’s time to shop Adi and see what kind of value we can get from the sale of the big man. I’m sure Adi wants more minutes and after being a sure-fire starter, sitting on the bench must be frustrating. Though I’m sure Adi will get minutes as the Timbers play three matches this week and rotation will be key. I’d also expect that Adi will start on Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup.

Chalkboard

While players were at the World Cup, LAFC went with a 4-3-3, but now that they have everyone back, look for Bob Bradley to run out a 4-2-3-1 — his favorite formation. Look for Marco Ureña to spearhead the attack as the lone striker. Right beneath him will be Carlos Vela playing the number 10 role, and he’ll be flanked by Latif Blessing and, most likely, Diego Rossi.

Bradley does have a choice to make: Either play Ureña up top or go with the really hot hand, Adama Diomande. He currently leads the team in goals with nine, and picked up a brace against Orlando City as the starting striker. Either player is dangerous, so the Timbers back line could be in for a long day in any event.

Look for the fullbacks Steven Beitashour and Jordan Harvey to join the attack every chance they get. Beitashour likes to really get forward and can be caught out at times, and the space he leaves behind him is quite exploitable.

The team as a whole likes to stay compact and force play out to the wings, effectively stretching opponents. They are a very proactive team who loves having possession, though be careful on the counter — this team can fly.

Look for Benny Feilhaber and Mark-Anthony Kaye run as the double pivot, with Feilhaber the more likely of the two to get forward in the attack.

During this run of 13 matches without a loss, Giovanni Savarese has used five different formations, though his most used is that 4-3-2-1, which has gotten great results. One thing I like about how Gio has his team set up is the plug-and-play nature of it. He’s used not only different formations, but different lineups as well.

Like I’ve said the last couple of times, it’s really hard now to predict what formation and lineup he’ll run out. I figure we’ll get the first-choice starting XI on Sunday, and look for Wednesday to be heavy with rotation. With three matches in a week, it’ll be interesting to see how exactly he matches things up.

A Green and Gold Summer

The last time Liam Ridgewell saw the pitch was May 19th in about the fourth minute. He went down with an injury, and then Julio Cascante took over and has been the de facto starter ever since. Earlier, I talked about how having a designated player riding the pine was not really a wise use of money, right? Well, how about one that hasn’t seen the pitch in three months?

Back in April, I wrote about the End of the Ridgewell era, and I honestly think that four months later, it’s here. He’s been passed over by younger and better players, and I don’t see him breaking into the lineup anytime soon. So, could we see more movement this summer during the transfer window? I wouldn’t rule it out, that’s for sure.

We’ve just about hit the halfway mark of the season, and currently the Timbers sit fifth in the West, but only because every team in the conference has played more games than our boys in the green and gold. If you look purely at PPG, the Timbers right now are averaging almost two points per game (1.81), which is good for third place in the West behind FC Dallas and Los Angeles Football Club.