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Storylines: Portland Timbers vs Philadelphia Union

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The Union come to town looking to take three points from the Timbers.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Philadelphia Union Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The story so far

The Timbers are coming off taking three points from the Houston Dynamo. With the win, the Timbers are in fourth place all alone, behind the likes of LAFC, LA Galaxy, and Western Conference leader FC Dallas. A win against this weekend would likely put them into third place, depending how the Galaxy fair this weekend.

This weeks opponent: The Philadelphia Union.

The Union come into the match after beating Houston 3-1. Don’t let the scoreline fool you, it was tied one all until a red card to Martinez (which, as we know, got rescinded) in the 59th minute that changed the match. And with Philly up a man they were able to score two more goals and get their second road win in a row, which ties the club record.

Will the Union come in to play spoiler and stop the streak? Or will the Timbers dispatch the Union back to Philly without any points and still looking for that elusive third road win in a row.

Brotherly love

Coming into this weekend’s match the Union are looking to improve on their 8-10-3 record. They have the second best road record of any team not in a playoff spot (3-6-1), number one is the Vancouver Whitecaps (3-7-1). They’ve been averaging 1.29 PPG which would be good enough for the sixth and final playoff spot in the East passing up the New England Revolution who are barely holding on to that sixth playoff spot.

This will be the Union’s fourth match in 10 days and they have a midweek U.S. Open Cup semi-final against the Chicago Fire. So the time is ripe for the Timbers to take it to a fatigued Philadelphia Union squad, and extend their unbeaten run to a club record-tying 15th consecutive match without a loss.

Chalkboard

Jim Curtin will run out a 4-2-3-1, it’s the only formation that Philly has used this season. Look for their front four to be dangerous, Cory Burke has been seeing more playing time as late, which moves C.J. Sapong to the bench. Burke co-leads goals scored with Borek Dockal; they each have five apiece. Speaking of Dockal, he’s been involved in at least half of goals scored for the Union. He’s the number 10 and creative force behind the Union’s attack.

Curtin has put his trust in not one, but two 19 year-old center backs in Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty. So if there’s a weak link, I’d look at the two CBs. They’re young and prone to make mistakes now and then, and the Timbers will just need to force those errors. Speaking of errors, the Union at times seem to just ‘switch off’ and have a total breakdown of shape. Catch them out of shape on the counter, and one could likely net a goal or two.

Though getting a goal will be a bit tough with their 27 year-old shot stopper Andre Blake. While not exactly young as some keepers, he is regarded as one of the better keepers in the league; up there with Zack Steffen, Jesse Gonzalez, and some of the younger keepers coming through.

The Timbers will need to shut down the midfield trio of Dockal, Fafa Picault, and David Accam. While Accam hasn’t done so well since coming to the Union via the Chicago fire, he is still a dangerous player. From what I’ve watched, this is a very winnable match. But, I don’t want to get ahead of myself as the Timbers need to come out and do their thing.

Last week, Gio Savarese rolled out his three (or five) in the back against the Dynamo and it worked. Like I said last week, I’ve given up trying to pin down what formation Gio is going to use. From what I’ve been able to tell, it goes on an opponent by opponent basis when picking out the evenings formation. My gut tells me that he won’t roll out that formation again, right after using it against Houston.

Log slices

Looking down the injury list, and only one person is on it: Samuel Armenteros, he’s listed as questionable as of this writing. With Armenteros out, we will most likely see Asprilla up top in the striker position, though I’m really hoping Armenteros is ready to go and rested.

Could this also be the weekend that we see Liam Ridgewell return to the team? Between picking up an injury and the birth of his child, he hasn’t seen the pitch in quite a while. I think though, we’ll see him in the 18. Cascante has been learning on the job and has done well, except for last week’s error that lead to Houston’s lone goal, but Gio has confidence in him, so that’s good enough for me.

I’m not sure how I feel about Asprilla being our secondary striker, but for now it’s going to have to work. While Ebobisse has been logging minutes at T2, he hasn’t seen much action with the senior team. So do they start to integrate Ebo or do they go out on the market and find a backup striker than can do the job? I guess we’ll find out before the Transfer Window closes on August 8th.

The rumor that’s been floated around is that Lucas Melano might be returning to the club. Take that with a heavy pinch of salt; for me I really have no opinion either way when it comes to Melano. Can he come and produce down the stretch? That’s all I care about, can he get the job done.

If he doesn’t come back. No loss in my book.

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