The Story So Far
The Timbers are coming off an acceptable result in New England that ended at 1-1. Lawrence Olum picked up his first goal of the season, and Julio Cascante picked up his first MLS assist. After one game on the road, the Timbers return to the friendly confines of Providence Park to take on the Colorado Rapids.
The Rapids are coming off a bye week after getting pasted by Real Salt Lake 6-0. At this point, they’re just playing out the rest of the season with no real hope of making the playoffs. Can the Rapids turns things around and get three points on the road, or will the Timbers steamroll the hapless Rapids?
A Mile High
Simply put, the Rapids aren’t very good.
They have only won twice in the last 10 meetings with the Timbers, and I think it’ll continue in that direction. To say things just haven’t gone well in Colorado this season is the understatement of the year. They have really one player that stands out, and that’s Kellyn Acosta who was brought in from FC Dallas. Even that addition hasn’t really helped, but you can’t expect to slap the number 10 jersey on him and things are going to turn around.
The Rapids have exactly one win on the road all season, having collected a 1-8-3 record when venturing out of the state of Colorado. Even at home, they’re not all that great, but it’s been better than out on the road, that’s for sure. How much rope the FO gives Hudson will be interesting. I mean, if things trend the way they are, I’d assume that his arse is on the hotseat in the Mile High City.
Colorado Rapids (6-14-6, 24 pts)
Most of the season, Rapids coach Anthony Hudson has been running a 3-5-2, though it looks more like a 5-3-2 without the ball. Last week in Utah, they came out in a 4-3-3, a formation that, up to the point, they had never used. The result was a 6-0 thrashing, so I’m not so sure that Hudson would run the same formation this time out.
With all that said, I think with them coming into a hostile environment they’ll go with the 3-5-2 that in reality is a five-man back line with the fullbacks getting forward as wingbacks.
If they were smart, they’d move goalkeeper Tim Howard to the bench and start the much younger and better Zac MacMath. Howard’s distribution is terrible and really shouldn’t be starting — and maybe it’s time to hang up the gloves. But since they will start him in the net, goals can be had.
Portland Timbers (11-7-8, 41 pts)
Right now, the Timbers sit just above the red line on 41 points and in a playoff position, which could improve with a win over the Rapids. I guess the big news going into Saturday’s match is that Jeff Attinella is out with a bad hammy, which means newly signed keeper Steve Clark will likely get the nod to start between the pipes. Attinella has been great this year, and even though hammy issues are a bugger to heal, I hope it’s not a really bad injury and we can get him back as soon as possible. He’s been a revelation for the club this season.
While a win in New England would have been nice, a road point is a road point. The overall goal now is to stay above the line and get into the playoffs. As long as Gio doesn’t tinker too much from here on out, I expect he will run the usual 4-3-2-1 with Armenteros up top. Which, by the way, can we say that the Dairon Asprilla experiment at striker is over? It’s not like we don’t have two attackers waiting in the wings in the form of Langsdorf and Ebobisse. Which also begs the question: Would they have as much rope as Gio has given Asprilla?
While the Rapids are coming off a bye week and are all rested up, the Timbers should be rested as well. I’m pretty sure we’ll see a first choice 11 from Gio. I’d also expect that since he didn’t even travel last week, Liam Ridgewell will be ready to pair up with Mabiala in the center of the Timbers defense. I’ve been hard on Ridgy, but he’s been in very good form lately and I don’t want to lose that momentum.
According to the website fivethrityeight.com, the Timbers sit on an 82 percent chance of making the playoffs, but only an 11 percent chance of getting the coveted first round bye. Even with points per game, the Timbers only move up one spot in the conference, with a 1.58 ppg.
The Timbers are about to hit another stretch of fixtures in a short time. After the Rapids, they travel to Houston next week, then have a midweek home match against the Columbus Crew, and then head to Minnesota that Saturday. Rotation, rotation, rotation. It’ll be interesting to see how Savarese handles this next stretch of congested matches.
The Timbers will be minus Alvas Powell (He injured his groin and will miss a month), Andres Flores and David Guzman, as all three are out on international duty. I’ve never understood why MLS plays during an official FIFA break. It’s a break, take one for crying out loud.