Finally we can bring the off-season to a close.
We’re moments away from the 2019 season, and for these few brief moments before first kick, every team is on level pegging. That will all be washed away tomorrow morning. I don’t know about you, but I love new season smell.
The defending Western Conference Champion Portland Timbers head out on the road for 12 straight matches before being able to play in front of a friendly crowd. Up first on the road show is the Colorado Rapids.
Can the Timbers start their ultimate road test with all three points against the Rapids? Or will the Rapids’ newer team be able to hold off the reigning conference champs.
The 2019 season starts now!
What To Watch For
Colorado Rapids (0-0-0, 0 pts)
Last season, the Rapids set the MLS record for the fewest points in a 34 game season. Add to that only 36 goals all season, that put the Rapids in the basement of the Western Conference for a large majority of the season. So as you can imagine, the Rapids had quite the off season and roster shake up.
Coach Anthony Hudson had some growing pains in his first season behind the helm, but now headed into the second year, they hope with the pieces and parts they either picked up or tossed to the curb, this is a different Rapids squad.
Here are a few of the names that have come to Commerce City: Benny Feilhaber by way of LAFC, Kei Kamara from Vancouver, Diego Rubio from Sporting KC. These aren’t the only players that came in, but these guys are MLS vets, with a lot still to give. They’ve brought in (hopefully) a couple goal scorers with Kamara leading the charge. He’s always been dangerous and a change of scenery might help as well.
It’ll be interesting to see how these new pieces and parts play together. And holding it all together on the field, their captain, who is in his last season as a player: Tim Howard. He’s vulnerable, he’s not as quick as he once was. His distribution leaves something to be desired. The Timbers would do well with pressuring Howard as much as possible.
As far as formations go, you could be looking at a 4-2-3-1 or some sort of formation with three in the back as Hudson has been known to use. It’ll be a bit of a surprise exactly how they roll out in formation and new players.
Portland Timbers (0-0-0, 0 pts)
The Timbers are 3-2-3 in season openers and they’ve won two of their last three. Saturday will mark the third time in nine seasons that the Timbers have opened up on the road, and the last time they opened the season on the road in Colorado was 2011.
Just like Hudson head coach Giovanni Savarese is headed into his sophomore season in Major League Soccer. Though the two teams and coaches last year were about as polar opposite as you can get. Gio was able to guide the Timbers to the top of the mountain only to be turned around by a very strong Atlanta United squad.
The Timbers didn’t shake it up like the Rapids in the off-season, and still haven’t signed a DP level striker which has been a stated goal for a while now. Not like they haven’t tried, but the Timbers will likely start Jeremy Ebobisse up top, not that he doesn’t deserve it. He had a hell of a 2018 and like the rest of you hope he shows up even more in 2019.
One of the moves Gavin Wilkinson and the team made was to pick up (on loan) right-back Jorge Moreira who was brought in from defending Copa Libertadores champs River Plate. Wilkinson thinks he could push up high as a right-back and providing some width on the right. Will he start in Colorado? Not sure, I think Zarek Valentin starts until Moreira is ready. I mean the loan didn’t come through until the 20th of February. Who knows, maybe he’ll have had enough time between the end of pre-season and Saturday.
How much of a leash will Savarese give Julio Cascante this season? He’ll be alongside Larrys Mabiala at center-back. Waiting in the wings is Bill Tuiloma along with new acquisition Claude Dielna. I see Dielna as deep depth piece, with Tuiloma getting the backup minutes at center-back.
Last season, I just gave up on predicting a formation when Gio was experimenting. But I fully believe that we’ll see the 4-2-3-1, it’s a formation that really helped down the stretch and into the Timbers playoff run.
I do have my own worries going into the season, mainly that our captain Diego Valeri isn’t getting any younger, and neither is Diego Chara for that matter. I even hate to bring it up, but it is what it is. Hopefully Gio manages their minutes in a way that benefit both the players and the team. Along with Sebastian Blanco, they are the keys to this 2019 squad.
With this road trip, the Timbers will rack up about 30,000 miles! That’s a lot of traveling, folks. The light at the end of the tunnel in all this is that the Timbers will get to play 12 of their last 13 at home. Though the Timbers would be best to start off the season with three points to get the trip off on the right track.
Saturday in Commerce City is going to be a cold one, the high is supposed to get up to a whole 21 degrees, with the low dipping to single digits. Also, it could start/continue snowing in the afternoon. Bundle up, it’s going to be crisp.
Saturday will be the 21st meeting between the Rapids and Timbers.
The Timbers lead the all-time series with a record of 10-7-3 and are unbeaten in their last three matches (3-0-0) against the Rapids. In those three matches, the Timbers have outscored Colorado 7-3, posting a 3-2 win in the club’s last meeting at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on May 26, 2018. Notably, Sebastian Blanco has registered five assists in four matches against Colorado, while Diego Valeri has recorded six goals in 12 career matches against the Rapids.
How many points to the Timbers get in Colorado?
This poll is closed