The Story So Far
One streak done, one still ongoing.
The Timbers fell 3-2 to LAFC on Wednesday night in US Open Cup play, bringing their 14-match unbeaten streak to an end. But have no fear my friend: in MLS play the Timbers are still riding a 12-match unbeaten run. It’s the longest in MLS this season and the Timbers look to add to that on Saturday when they welcome the Montreal Impact.
The Impact are on a current run of good form, going 7-2-0 in their last nine and collecting six clean sheets in the process. They’re coming off a 2-0 win at home over the San Jose Earthquakes. While they are on a current run of form, they have just a 2-9-0 record away from Stade Saputo.
Interestingly the Impact have yet to draw a match in the 2018 MLS season, the only team to do so. The Timbers and the Impact have met 20 times, dating back to the USL days. The Timbers currently lead the Impact with a 9-7-4 record lifetime.
That’s right, our midfield destroyer has to sit this one out after picking up a yellow card on the weekend against LAFC. What does that mean for the Timbers? A lot really. As has been hashed out many times, the Timbers do not perform well without the 32-year-old Colombian.
Matter of fact, they haven’t won a match without him in the lineup since he signed.
What does this mean for the Timbers? Well, the most likely scenario is that we’ll get another Lawrence Olum sighting. I shouldn’t rag on Olum to much, he’s put in a couple good performances. It’ll be interesting to see how Gio plans for this come Saturday.
Remi Garde’s team currently sits in sixth, just above the playoff line, in the East, and are on an excellent run of form having lost just once in the last six matches. Garde tactically has used six different formations this year, but clearly favors a 4-3-3. They like to play a pretty high line which gives away space behind them and has come to trouble them from time to time. If they take the lead, look for them to sit back absorb pressure, daring you to break them down—and then hit you on the counter.
If Ignacio Piatti was on any other team we’d be talking about him a lot more. But that’s just my opinion. Look for Piatti to play out on the left wing so he can cut in on his right foot. Against San Jose he was allowed to roam a bit and had a tendency to drift to the middle. The Timbers are going to have to be vigilant when it comes to the 33-year-old Argentinian winger. You cannot give this guy any space to work, or he will burn you.
All in all, this team is well-organized and can be tough to break down. Their three attackers, Piatti, Matteo Mancosu, and Alejandro Silva, are solid, with Piatti being the obvious standout. Don’t count his strike partners out though. We could see some rotation because they, like the Timbers, played three matches in a week—not to mention they’re doing it again with a Canadian Championship match against Vancouver coming up on Wednesday.
The Timbers will be looking to rebound after Wednesday’s loss to LAFC. They have been shut out just twice in 15 matches, both of which were draws. The obvious thing is that as mentioned above, the Timbers will be without the services of Diego Chara due to yellow card accumulation.
As we know, the Timbers without Chara isn’t a good thing. Just look at last season: he got injured, and the Timbers got bounced from the playoffs. We know he’ll be back next week, but in the meantime the Timbers are going to have to pull this off without him. I think Lawrence Olum has done well in his limited appearances this season, but he still makes me a tad bit nervous.
As far as the defense goes, we know what we’re going to get. Liam Ridgewell is healthy according to the injury list, but it’s still a crapshoot whether he makes the 18 or not. Christhian Paredes and Roy Miller are listed as questionable. I think that Gio has the back four that he wants and they’re really starting to gel. Larrys Mabiala needs to watch himself: one more yellow and he’ll be watching the next match from the stands.
Another question that has to be on everyone’s mind: Fanendo Adi.
He was an unused substitute on Sunday and didn’t even make the 18 for the US Open Cup match, when I think that most of us thought he’d get the start. Right now speculation is that he might be on the move, and the signs are starting to point to the exit. Maybe this is a reason that Dairon Asprilla has been playing striker from time to time? I’m sure we’ll know more in the coming days.
Notes & Numbers
The Timbers look to make it 12 straight in MLS play against a Montreal team that should not be underrated by any stretch. Speaking of stretches, the Timbers are at the start of a four-match homestand, the longest of the year, and the longest in the MLS season. With a month, home cooking could go a long way to cementing a stop at the top of the West.
Samuel Armenteros is currently averaging 0.73 goals per 90, among players that have played at least 700 minutes this year; only five players have a better scoring rate. We knew he was good, but now it’s really starting to show. Who knew that when the season started that Armenteros would be the de facto starting striker?
With the nil-nil draw on Sunday, Timbers keeper Jeff Attinella has recorded his fifth clean sheet of the season in 11 starts. He’s really come on to earn and keep that number one spot. He’s one of the reasons we’re on the run we’re on.
Just for fun, here is the predicted lineup according to MLS.com:
GK: Jeff Attinella — Alvas Powell, Larrys Mabiala, Julio Cascante, Zarek Valentin — Andres Flores, Lawrence Olum, Andy Polo— Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco — Samuel Armenteros
Make of that what you will.