The Story So Far
Ding, Dong the streak is dead. Long live the streak.
The Timbers faltered over the weekend and dropped all three points to rival Vancouver Whitecaps ending the streak at 15 unbeaten in MLS. The loss really was a comedy of errors that allowed the Caps to take the victory.
How many times is Jeff Attinella going to make that kind of mental mistake? While frustrating, I highly doubt he ever commits an error like that again.
D.C. United, on the other hand, continued their home stretch with a 3-2 win over Orlando City SC on the back of a Luciano Acosta hat trick and an amazing play by club Captain Wayne Rooney in the final minute. How much will the coach’s rotations play into this midweek clash?
Can the Timbers nab three points on the road against a pretty poor D.C. United side, or will United take advantage of home cooking, sending the Timbers back West without any points to show for it?
Ben Olsen and his crew have been dwelling at the bottom of the Eastern Conference for most, if not all, of the season. Currently they are in the middle of a mother of all homestands, with the next 12 of 15 at home. With their win over Orlando City on Sunday, their home record has improved to 5-1-1 and they will be looking to continue that trend.
Make no mistake though, this is a terrible team over-all. No amount of Wayne Rooney and new stadium is going to help this team sniff the playoffs. With last night’s win, they improved to a 1.05 PPG average; most of the season it has sat under a point per game.
Speaking of Wayne Rooney, I just want to give props where props are due.
Even at his age, he’s got wheels when he needs them - and I don’t think he’s as washed up as some may think. While we can agree he wasn’t Premier League level anymore, he’s going to do just fine in this league. So, yes as a whole this team isn’t very good - but there are some individuals on this team that can and do provide a spark.
USMNT Goalkeeper Bill Hamid has rejoined D.C. United on loan from FC Midtjylland in the Danish First Division. He was on the bench for Sunday’s match against Orlando but
it’s unclear when he’ll get his first start between the pipes.
Ben Olsen likes to use a 4-1-4-1 with Rooney as the lone striker. On Sunday, he went the full 90+ in their win over Orlando City, so it’s quite possible that Rooney will be used off the bench and the job of striker will fall to former Timber Darren Mattocks. He’s been having a solid year, second on the team in goals with eight. But with the arrival of Rooney, Mattocks has had to ride the pine more often than not.
Rotation will be the word of the day for both teams, though the Timbers have a bit more rest than DC. It’ll be interesting to see just how much Olsen rotates his side; a large chunk of his first choice played on Sunday, though playing some on short rest might be an option.
Wayne Rooney isn’t all of their attacking talent, they do have more - it’s been their lackluster defending among other things that have kept them in the East’s basement all season. One of the problems that United has is that they don’t retain possession very often. They average 47% possession and often play in their own end more than the attacking end. They can be easily pressed into mistakes that will lead to them coughing up possession.
Players to look out for: Luciano Acosta and Yamil Asad.
Let’s start with the former Atlanta United midfielder, Asad leads D.C. United with 9 goals and is one of the more dynamic attackers the team has. He’ll play out on the wing and will pose a problem for our fullbacks. Acosta, on the other hand, is coming off a hat-trick which now gives him four goals. He’s the assist man and creator, leading the team with eight. He’ll line up in the central midfield next to Paul Arriola the U.S. International and former Xolos man. Arriola also played the full 90 on Sunday.
They like to attack down the right, pushing the ball out to the wings. When they’re on defense, don’t look for them to be overly aggressive in any sort of pressing scheme. They’re almost too passive at times allowing teams to pin them deep in their own half. They’ll throw out a medium-to-low block in their own end and look to frustrate opponents. Which, at times hasn’t worked out well for them.
While you’d think this might be an easy three points, I wouldn’t hold my breath. The Timbers are going to have to play well organized and pick D.C. apart. What formation Gio throws out will be directly related to how he has to rotate his team. We could see a return to the 4-3-2-1 that he’s been fond of, or with a match on the road he may see it fit to run three at the back and see how the wing-backs add to the attack.
While both Jorge Villafana and Lucas Melano are just arriving, I’m not sure what their status is for this match. With rotation, I could see at the least Villafana playing in place of Zarek Valentin and Melano most likely coming off the bench. Of course, that’s pure speculation on my part, but it would seem logical. I could also see a scenario where they won’t see any action until the weekend against Sporting Kansas City.
Currently there are no members of the senior squad on the injury list, unless you count Eryk Williamson and Modou Jadama of T2. This is a good sign that the the team is healthy which is great and helps with the stretch drive. While I’m sure guys aren’t 100%, everyone seems to be available for this match. One person that’s been missing in action (still) is Liam Ridgewell. He didn’t head out in the transfer window, but we haven’t seen him suit up for quite some time.
At this point, I think the team and Gio have moved past Ridgewell. The pairing of Mabiala and Cascante is going well and why mess with the chemistry at the back this late in the season by inserting someone who hasn’t played in months.
I don’t know about you, but a part of me is relieved that the streak is over. While it was a fun ride, the other shoe was going to drop sooner or later. The loss saw us fall back down to third place in the West, but on PPG we’re sitting second with 1.76 - Dallas is in first either way, by points (42) or by PPG (1.83). The Timbers still have about three games in hand on the rest of the Western Conference - which could come in handy.