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Storylines: Minnesota United vs Portland Timbers

The Timbers head to the Gopher State to nab three points

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Portland Timbers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far

Let’s hear it for a come from behind victory!

With the win over the Columbus Crew, the Portland Timbers find themselves in fourth place in the West tied on points with Los Angeles Football Club, who are in third because they have a better goal differential.

Last Weekend, Minnesota United drew Real Salt Lake nil-nil and now the Loons’ winless streak extends to seven games. They were down 1-0 headed into the last six minutes or so when Miguel Ibarra netted a goal for Minnesota to snatch the draw. The Loons looked to have the win, it was Ibarra again, but it was ruled Darwin Quintero was offside and the goal was reversed.

The last time the Timbers were in Minnesota they took the L (3-2). So, there’s that. Can the Timbers get all three points on the road or will Minnesota, who have been good at home and are working on a full week’s rest, send the Timbers back to Portland without so much as a point?

North Star

While not officially out of the playoff race, they’re already playing for 2019. Adrian Heath’s squad currently sits 10th in the West, if they ran the table they could sneak into the playoffs, but that’s as likely to happen as me getting a start at left-back on Saturday. Let's face it, they’re headed towards another year near the bottom of the table and out of the playoff picture.

The last time these two clubs met, the Loons lost 3-2 at Providence Park. While not a complete pushover, Minnesota United really isn’t all that good - outside of Miguel Ibarra and Darwin Quintero who are the heavy lifters on the team and will be two men the Timbers will be looking to shut down over the course of the match.


Minnesota United (9-16-3, 30 pts)

Adrian Heath has used several different formations over the course of the season, but he keeps going back to the 4-2-3-1. With the additions of Fernando Bob and Maximiano as the double sixes, it really has settled the defensive midfield. They went from no true number six, to two. Bob is the team's deep-lying distributor, pinging balls around the pitch, where his midfield partner will drift a bit more forward in attack.

The one to really be on the lookout for is the man at the number 10 spot, Colombian midfielder Darwin ‘the scientist’ Quintero who has played for Club America in Liga MX. He currently leads the team in goals (10) and assists (10). He is, in this writer's opinion, one of the most dangerous players that suit up for Minnesota United. This is not about throwing shade at Miguel Ibarra and Romeo Ibarra or even Christian Ramirez, he’s just that much better than all of them.

The Loons do have their weaknesses.

They open themselves up for being attacked down the wings not to mention they aren’t very good at possessing the ball for any meaningful length of time. I think the defense can be broken down, because organization isn’t the Loons’ strong suit. Catch them out of shape, and take advantage of it it.

Fernando Bob’s distribution is perfect to unleash the speed of the forwards, who are quick and can get on the ball and blow past defenses if they’re not paying attention. This team can hit you quick, just ask Real Salt Lake. Minnesota really shouldn’t have tied that match, RSL was in control for 83 minutes after scoring in the games first 12 minutes. One mental mistake and they let Minnesota back in it. The Loons are better by far at home than on the road. At home they’ve won eight, tied four and lost one - coming in the Timbers are going to have a tough go.

Portland Timbers ( 13-8-8, 47 pts)

On Wednesday night, Gio Savarese ran out a first choice eleven the same as he did on the weekend, which on its face that’s fine. But take into account a very short turn around, that must mean there is going to be some major rotation going on. Nine players went the full 90, Diego Valeri played 89, and Samuel Armenteros went 84 minutes.

So what is he going to do against Minnesota?

Honestly, I’m not sure what he’s going to do. He can’t just swap all 10 outfield players, so some are going to have to play on heavy legs. Maybe would be as much of a factor if the team was playing at home, but you add in travel miles and the legs get heavy. We could get a Tomás Conechny start, though I wouldn’t hold my breath. I’m betting that Diego Valeri will be rested along with Liam Ridgewell and possibly Sebastian Blanco.

Jeremy Ebobisse should get his third start of the season with Armenteros going 84 minutes on Wednesday night. While Ebo did sub in for Armenteros, his short time on the pitch won’t really matter going into Saturday’s match. I’m at least hoping that he’ll come out in the 4-3-2-1, it’s just been the most effective of the formations he’s used. With rotation I highly doubt he goes back to the three man back line as he’s done before in situations like this.

Log Slices

With the win over the Crew on Wednesday, the Timbers playoff hopes even got better, moving up to a 94% chance of making the playoffs, there’s still a small chance the Timbers can get that first round bye, if everything falls their way - the chance of that happening is at about 10%. I’ve found another site that’s doing the same thing as FiveThirtyEight and that’s, American Soccer Analysis; they go a bit more in to detail.

For example: The Timbers have a 25% probability of finishing fifth in the Western Conference, finishing in fourth is about a 20% chance. They’re a bit more skeptical on the playoff front saying at this point the Timbers have a 86.4% chance of making the playoffs. Both sources are fun to play around with.

I’d really like someone to explain Gio’s sub pattern over the last few matches, and especially on Wednesday night, to me. Ebobisse comes in the 84th minute and then Lucas Melano was subbed in deep in stoppage time for Diego Valeri. I mean that late in the match, why would you put Melano on? Not like you’re saving Valeri’s legs at that point; and why only use two of the three allowed. Which of course means we’re going to get a B team in Minnesota. Is he trying to punt this one?

It just seems to be that the last couple matches have been completely mismanaged from a substitution standpoint. It’s just something I haven’t been able to put my finger on, his logic behind his roster moves. At times, they make no sense and there isn’t a discernible pattern or logic to it. Didn’t we learn anything the last time we had the three matches in the span of a week?


Where do the Timbers finish?

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