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Storylines: FC Dallas vs Portland Timbers

Deep in the heart of Texas ...

MLS: Knockout Round-Portland Timbers at FC Dallas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far

It’s official: We’re bad — as in last-in-the-West bad. The Timbers went into San Jose with no wins and a dream. Well, consider that dream crushed, and the 2019 Timbers have yet to find the win column. The Earthquakes came out and put the Timbers to the sword early, cruising to a 3-0 victory that rose San Jose out of their own last-place-in-the-West honor.

Now the Timbers take their road show to Frisco, Texas, where FC Dallas awaits. Dallas is coming off a road loss to the Philadelphia Union and are looking for some home-cooking. They have yet to taste defeat at home in 2019, and they certainly hope to continue that trend with the Portland Timbers.

Can the Timbers make a game of it and get a result? Or will FC Dallas continue their undefeated run at home?

What to Watch for

FC Dallas (3-2-1, 10 pts)

FC Dallas vs Philadelphia Union

It’ll be interesting to see how FCD head coach, Luchi Gonzalez, rolls out his team on Saturday. Last week in the loss to the Union, he fielded a 4-3-2-1, though he’s also gone with a 4-3-3 at least three times this season. So will he mirror the Timbers formation, or go with a more open attack at home with the 4-3-3?

One thing he did against the Union was play more of the kids than he would normally have, and although they lost by a 2-1 margin, he has no regrets in that department.

But no regrets. Because we also gain in learning. Learning about our depth and that the young guys can play. I thought Thomas [Roberts] had a very positive game and contributed. I think he’s got a bright future. Just like Paxton [Pomykal] did a year, or two years, ago. He made his starting debut and the game isn’t easy. There’s a long term gain in it.

Dallas News

Someone to watch for sure will be Paxton Pomykal, the 19-year-old number 10, who has found himself in a three-way tie for the lead in goals on the team (two). He is a central cog to this FC Dallas team and makes things go in the midfield. He’s a good two-way player and doesn’t slack on defense. Also keep an eye on him in the transition phase of the game: He makes smart runs and can make things happen with the ball at his feet. This is one person that the Timbers defense is definitely going to need to keep an eye on.

Here’s some good analysis of Pomykal from Matt Doyle.

Along with Reggie Cannon and Jacori Hayes, the three lead the youth movement on this team. They’ve also got the experience and, when you put it all together, you have a squad that I have no doubt will be in the mix at the end of the season for a top spot in the Western Conference.

While FCD only managed two shots on goal against the Union, I’d expect them to take more shots against the Timbers, who currently have the league's worst defense. Look for them to hunt for the ball in packs, wresting it from the opposing team. Once they’ve done that, they’ll likely shuttle it out to the wings and attack down either side.

Coach Gonzalez knows they can’t look past a team that eliminated them from the playoffs last season, even if they’re having a rough go of it right now.

We will be no means take anyone lightly here, especially a Portland who eliminated us in the playoffs last year. So I would say that’s a great motivation right there, in itself as this is the team that took us out of a playoff run last year and we’re hungry to respond to that that in our home stadium this Saturday.

Dallas News

FCD will be looking to shut down the Timbers’ primary weapons of Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco. In the past, Dallas has been able to slow down the Maestro and render him moot at times, but this will be something that the Timbers — especially Valeri and, to some extent, Blanco — will need to pay attention to.

Portland Timbers (0-4-1, 1 pts)

Timbers vs San Jose Earthquakes

I’m really not sure even where to start: Things seem to be going in the wrong direction for the Portland Timbers in so many areas that it’s hard to concentrate on just one. Keep in mind that this is a team that has largely remained after their MLS Cup run, so what’s the problem? It has to be more than just going on the road for 12 straight matches — I feel like that excuse is starting to run thin, even only six matches into the season.

It was good to see Tuiloma get the start in center defense, and I hope that it stays that way. I think that Cascante is too much of a liability right now to continue to get minutes. The Timbers are bad in every aspect of the game right now, and I know it looks dismal. There has to be a silver lining somewhere ... I just can’t seem to find it.

If the rumors of Brian Fernandez’s transfer are to be believed, this could be that silver lining. I know one man doesn’t make a team, but some fresh eyes and legs might be able to give that little spark that’s needed to start a turnaround. But since it’s all rumor at this time, they have to work with what they’ve got.

While three goals were allowed against San Jose, Jeff Attinella faced 13 and saved 10 — the most so far this season. And while not every goal has been on him, the back five have been shaky all season long, and I don’t know what is going to make it better.

According to, some of the Timbers’ glaring weaknesses right now are: defending set pieces, defending down the wing, avoiding fouling in dangerous areas, aerial duels ... and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The mantra has always been a win at home gets a result on the road, and since we can’t “win at home” until June, the Timbers need to start stepping it up. At times they look flat, even defeated — all bad mind-sets. It’s like you see the first goal scored, and their shoulders slump. Even though this is mostly the same roster that got us to the MLS Cup, it’s not even close to that right now.

I hope to see some consistency in the back line and that we continue with the center-back paring we saw in San Jose. As far as the fullbacks go, I’m not sure Villafana should be starting on the regular — at least not with the way he played in San Jose.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the Timbers and Diego Valeri react when FC Dallas tries to take the Maestro out of the match, which they have done successfully in the past. That means it’ll fall to players like Sebastian Blanco, and possibly Polo in the midfield, to pick up some of that slack.

Last week should have been the chance to turn things around; instead, the Timbers imploded, and the Earthquakes dropped a three-bomb on them. This week doesn’t get any easier: This is a tough FC Dallas side, eager for a win after dropping points in Philly.

Log Slices

FC Dallas currently leads the league with 1,919 academy product minutes in the 2019 regular season and has started five homegrown players in three consecutive matches. FCD and RSL set an MLS record last July with 11 homegrown players on the field.

The Portland Timbers have three homegrown players this season. One, Foster Langsdorf, made his MLS debut last week, playing 24 minutes off the bench.

FC Dallas (3-2-1, 10 pts) is unbeaten in its first three home matches, posting a record of 2-0-1. In its last match, FC Dallas suffered a 2-1 loss on the road against the Philadelphia Union on April 6, after picking up a 4-2 win on the road against Real Salt Lake on March 30. Michael Barrios, Paxton Pomykal and Reto Ziegler have combined to score six of the team’s 10 goals this season, with each player recording two goals over the first six matches.

Referee: Marcos DeOliveira, Assistant Referees: Jeffrey Greeson, Eduardo Mariscal, 4th Official: Victor Rivas, VAR: Chico Grajeda