The Story So Far
Three cheers for the international break being over, hopefully it did the Timbers some good. They needed the rest after coming off a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of expansion side FC Cincinnati. The less that is said about that, the better. The Timbers are in desperate need of a win or even points for that matter. So now they head to sunny Southern California to take on the other team in LA, the Galaxy.
The LAG are coming off a 3-2 win over Minnesota United. It would also be the second straight game without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who hasn’t been seen on the pitch since the season opener for the Galaxy.
Can the Timbers bounce back or will the Galaxy ruin another match for the Green and Gold?
What to Watch For
Los Angeles Galaxy (2-1-0, 6pts)
The big news going into this match is that the Galaxy will most likely have Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to the lineup after suffering an Achilles injury; also Romain Alessandrini has returned to training ahead of Sunday’s match. If both return on Sunday, the Timbers’ job just got that much harder. I think it’s safe to say that when they’re both healthy the team revolves around them. Put them off, and the rest of the team goes with them.
Coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto started the season with a 4-1-4-1, but against the Loons he brought out a 4-3-3, with dos Santos as the holding midfielder — which means he wasn’t holding much and added to their attack. The one thing right now that the Galaxy and the Timbers have in common is their defense, or their lack thereof at times. It’ll be interesting to see what formation Schelotto comes out with, with a healthy Zlatan and Alessandrini.
The Galaxy are 8-6-6 against the Timbers and went undefeated against them in 2018.
But let's go back to the defense. Against Minnesota they had a 3-1 lead, but allowed an 87th minute goal to bring the Loons closer — but it wasn’t enough and the Galaxy walked away with a tight win. All in all this season (so far) LAG have a zero goal differential. They’ve scored five goals and allowed just as many.
Look for the Galaxy to try and stretch the field, while trying to either attack down the middle of the pitch or on the right wing, so Valentin could have his work cut out for him. Also look for a lot of crosses coming into the box so the center backs are going to have to be on their best behavior. Besides the crosses, the Galaxy as a whole like peppering the box and the keeper with shots — they’re averaging almost 15 shots per game.
Portland Timbers (0-2-1, 1pt)
Not sure where to begin, is it the .33 ppg?
Or that the Portland Timbers are hemorrhaging goals?
This is, as you can imagine, less than ideal and it’s not going to get any easier as this road trip rolls on. And it looks as though they will arrive in California just in time for the return of Zlatan, which can always spell trouble.
If the Timbers defense isn’t leaky enough already, they will be without the services of Larrys Mabiala, who picked up a second yellow against FC Cincinnati and will be sitting this one out due to suspension. So that leaves a glaring hole that will most likely be filled by Julio Cascante. I’d actually like to see Tuiloma get the start, but he’s listed as questionable with a lower leg strain, which isn’t, as you can imagine, ideal right now. So it looks as though the center back paring will be Dielna and Cascante.
The team itself isn’t firing on all cylinders, and I hope (along with the rest of the fan base) that the international break did some good, they got rest, and hopefully are figuring out what’s going wrong. Three matches into the season the offense has only scored four times, which is just over a goal a game, but giving up a ten-spot (3.3 goals allowed per match) isn’t ideal.
No one said it was going to be easy opening up the season with 12 matches on the road, but here we are and there’s nothing we can do about it. Even the LA Galaxy lost their first eight road matches before the Home Depot Center opened up, and we all know what happened to D.C. United last season.
On the bright side, the Timbers will have Diego Chara available for selection. Having our stalwart in the midfield back is a bit more reassuring, so I’d suspect that he will be paired with David Guzman, at least that’s what common sense would say. While we know how the defensive midfield will line up, there’s still the position of striker. Against FCC, Lucas Melano got the start up top, but he was more or less not a factor. The other choice, Jeremy Ebobisse, is returning from international duty so it’s a toss-up who will get the start.
Sunday’s match marks the 21st meeting in MLS regular-season play between Portland and the Galaxy. The Timbers have earned at least one point in five of their last seven meetings against the Galaxy (3-2-2). Notably, in its last four road matches against the Galaxy, Portland has posted a record of 2-1-1. Diego Valeri has five goals and five assists in 14 career matches against the Galaxy, including a goal in a 1-1 draw at Providence Park on June 2, 2018.
REFEREE: Ted Unkel; AR1 (bench): Frank Anderson; AR2 (opposite): Mike Rottersman; 4th: Alejandro Mariscal; VAR: Kevin Stott; AVAR: Cameron Blanchard
I look at it this way, at least we’re not San Jose or Vancouver, as they have yet to notch a result this season, both sitting at 0-3-0.
Timbers are 11 out of 12 with a goal differential of -6. The only team worse than the Timbers right now are the San Jose Earthquakes with a -7.
Who starts at striker?
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