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Storylines: Portland Timbers vs Toronto FC

Timbers look to stop the bleeding ... again

MLS: Portland Timbers at Toronto FC Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far

The Timbers dropped their fourth in a row on Sunday night to the Seattle Sounders. With that loss, the Timbers are now underneath the red line, looking up instead of down. From second to seventh place in the span of four matches. Some quick thinking needs to happen to keep the club from falling further down the table.

Reigning MLS champs Toronto FC are fighting for a playoff spot just as the Timbers are. They’re coming off a 3-1 win over rivals Montreal Impact and are looking to pick up some points on the road as they march towards the red line.

Can the Timbers hold off the reigning MLS champs, or will TFC come into Providence Park and walk out with three points in hand?

The 6

Toronto FC haven’t been the world beaters we saw last season, easily marching their way to raise the MLS Cup. Some say the CONCACAF Champions League might have something to do with it, but who knows. Coming into Providence park, TFC are 3-4-3 in their last 10. Their overall road record is 2-7-4, though, so winning away from BMO field has been tough for the Reds.

While they are a team that is a half of what it was last season, they are still dangerous, and Greg Vanney is a hell of a coach. Even when they’re not winning, they are entertaining to watch, at least against other teams in the league. I think that Vanney is one of the best coaches right now in MLS, even if his side is way underperforming. TFC was also hit by the injury bug: They have two main defensive players still on the shelf.


Toronto FC (7-12-6)

With injuries to their center back, Greg Vanney has experimented with Michael Bradley, usually a defensive mid, in that position. Against Montreal, they came out into what I would call a 4-3-1-2; almost a 4-4-2 if you squint hard enough. In that setup, Bradley is back into his natural number six position. With Bradley at center back, it’s a 4-1-4-1, so I have no way of guessing how Vanney is going line up the Reds.

They once again have the services of targetman and U.S. International Jozy Altidore, who had to sit out the last two matches from a red card. So if they go with two up front, possibly as a 4-4-2, it’ll be Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. I don’t really need to get too in depth about these two players: They are both very dangerous off and on the ball and complement each other pretty well. Giovinco is currently listed as questionable, though; if he doesn’t go, look for Lucas Janson to get the start alongside Altidore.

Giovinco leads the team in goals with 10, and midfielder Jonathan Osorio (listed as questionable) is second with nine. Altidore is having a somewhat quiet season, with only three tallies to his name. Though he’s there for a lot of off the ball — anything to pull defenders away from Giovinco.

This team will give up goals. They’re 11th in the league in clean sheets. But I’ll give Clint Irwin credit where credit is due: He was looked pretty good against the Impact. I mean he’s not Tim Melia good (leading MLS with 11 clean sheets), but he’s still a good keeper and he might prove tough to beat.

Portland Timbers (10-7-7)

Sunday night was undoubtedly frustrating. Although there were positives and negatives throughout the whole night, we’re not going to break them down here. It was good to see Gio go back to the trusty 4-3-2-1. It worked, and the Timbers controlled a large portion of the match. They need to do the same thing against Toronto FC — minus the whole own goal thing.

For the center backs, Mabiala is listed as questionable with a thigh injury. So we could see a Liam Ridgewell/Julio Cascante pairing again. Ridgy looked pretty good on Sunday night, and the former captain thinks another start is in order. When he’s healthy, he’s good, but it’s the whole staying healthy thing he has a problem with.

After discussion in my head and with a colleague, I’m coming around to how good Olum has been this season. He’s earned his minutes, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him in the midfield again Wednesday. Gio may choose to rotate, though, since they’re going to be going on only two days of rest. In theory, TFC had an extra day of rest, but because they had to travel from the East Coast, so that kind of negates that extra day.

The Timbers need to remain patient against TFC. The goal(s) will come.

Log Slices

The Timbers have now allowed 13 goals in minutes 76–60, which ties with the Houston Dynamo. Leading the pack is Toronto FC, with 14 allowed in the last 15 minutes of the match — which can be some good news for the Timbers.

As far as scoring goals, the Timbers have scored 10 goals in minutes 46–60. For Toronto, their big goal minutes are 76–90, where they’ve scored 11; the Timbers have only scored a mere six goals in the final 15 minutes of matches.

We’re only out of a playoff spot by a single point. A win would take the Timbers up above the line and put the Galaxy below it. We’re getting down to the nasty bits of the season where the real work gets done — and the Timbers need to wake out of their funk.