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Storylines: Portland Timbers vs Vancouver Whitecaps

The Timbers hope to wrap up this long homestand with three points.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Portland Timbers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far

The Timbers haven’t lost in MLS play since April, and a win against the Whitecaps would break the team record for most games unbeaten. This has catapulted them to second in the West and only five points off the pace of FC Dallas who sit atop the West — for the time being anyway.

Saturday’s win wasn’t the strongest display the Timbers have put on this season, but when the opposing team gifts you two very stupid penalties, you take advantage. Had there not been those two penalties, the Timbers would have squeaked out a 1-0 win thanks to the head of David Guzman.

The Vancouver Whitecaps have been busy: a draw over the weekend against New York City FC and then midweek against Toronto FC in the Canadian Championship. Right now, the Caps are on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs — but only four points separate the Caps from Real Salt Lake.

Will the Timbers continue their run, or will the Whitecaps play spoiler?


Coach Carl Robinson used a strong starting XI on Wednesday night when they drew with TFC in the first leg of the Canadian Championship final. A Vancouver own goal at the death sealed a draw as things heads back to Toronto midweek.

Carl Robinson has some decisions to make come match time: Does he bottle another league match (like he did against NYCFC), or does he try to keep some of his first-choice XI on the field and try to gain ground on Real Salt Lake?


The Whitecaps will most likely come out in a 4-4-2. Even though they’ve used several formations over the course of the season, it seems that Robinson has stuck with the tried and true 4-4-2. Usually Kei Kamara and Yordy Reyna are up top in the formation, but with the short rest, I’m not too sure that’s going to be the pairing. If it is those two starting, then the center backs need to keep both of them in check.

Kei Kamara leads the team with nine goals, though wonderkind Alphonso Davies is second with five. With Kamara uptop and Davies out on the wing, they’re dangerous.

Speaking of dangerous, the Timbers will need to be wary of the Whitecaps counterattack, and with the pure speed that the Whitecaps have, the Timbers are going to have to be on their collective toes. So I would expect them to sit back, absorb some pressure and wait for the Timbers to make a fatal mistake — then it’s off to the races.

Vancouver likes to play through the middle, so the Timbers would be best served by stretching the Whitecaps and negating the center of the pitch. They do like to widen the field, though, so that’ll be a bit of a tightrope to walk and could lead to a wide-open match. They’ve got speed out on the wings, so the fullbacks are going to have their hands full.

Once again Gio surprised me and went with three in the back in consecutive matches. He seems to like it and possibly could keep using it. Alvas Powell’s wingback play has been outstanding, and he seems to be loving the role. With the addition of Villafana, the wing-back position is just that much stronger.

The Timbers will embark on three matches in the stretch of eight days: Vancouver, D.C. United (midweek), and Sporting Kansas City next Saturday. This I’m sure will force Gio to rotate; most likely Wednesday could see a weaker squad.

Log Slices

The Timbers were pretty busy this transfer window: Vytas out, Villafana and Melano in, and lots of GAM and TAM flying around. It’ll be interesting to see how Villafana and Melano are going to be integrated into the team, especially at left back, where Zarek Valentin has been doing a bang-up job. Now he has a U.S. International to push him, though as we all know Zarek isn’t a natural left back.

I’ve lightened up a bit on the Melano situation. I wasn’t really positive about his return, and I still have reservations. But I’m in a ‘In Gio We Trust’ mode and hoping he can get the best out of Melano, instead of sending him into exile.

Melano is already in Portland, and Villafana arrives Sunday. Will they be available for midweek selection against D.C. United in D.C.? It’s possible, but I bet we won’t see them until next weekend against Sporting K.C. That gives them time to adjust and learn the system. Either way, this writer is pleased with the activity this transfer window.

When the Timbers head to D.C. midweek, it could be possible that Vytas could debut against his former team.


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