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Storylines: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Portland Timbers

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The Timbers look to make it four straight on the road!

MLS: Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far

The Portland Timbers are officially on a streak with their third win in as many games after a 2-1 victory against Real Salt Lake. Goals from Sebastian Blanco and Diego Valeri led the Timbers. Also performing well against the Cobalt and Blue was goalkeeper Steve Clark, who had a huge match between the sticks, including a PK save. Now they continue the road trip with another trip up north; this time to face Cascadia rivals, the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Speaking of the Whitecaps, they’re coming off a 3-2 win over the hapless Colorado Rapids, now under new management. The Caps were able to get goals from Fredy Montero, Lucas Venuto, and Andy Rose. Now they look to improve on their 1-2-2 record this season at home — against the Timbers.

What to Watch for

Vancouver Whitecaps (2-5-3, 9pts)

Vancouver vs Colorado

The Vancouver Whitecaps currently sit one spot above the bottom of the Western Conference, where they have been most of the season. Coach Marc Dos Santos hopes that the team can capitalize on the momentum of their match against the Rapids. They also return home to some turmoil: The supporters groups plan to walk out at the 35th minute in a protest against the front office, their third such walkout. The traveling Timbers Army also plan to walk out in solidarity.

This will be the first time since Dos Santos’ days in the NASL that he will face Giovanni Savarese. As the then-coach of the Ottawa Fury and San Francisco Deltas, he faced off against Gio in the Soccer Bowl, besting him once with the Deltas.

Here’s what he had to say about facing Gio again and the rivalry between the two clubs:

“It’s special that it’s Vancouver and Portland,” said Dos Santos, adding that he considers Savarese a friend. “We could have been coaching any other teams. To be Vancouver and Portland — that it’s such a rivalry, me being on one side and Gio on the other — it’s quite special.”

The last time these two men faced each other, in 2017, Dos Santos walked away with the Soccer Bowl, just before Savarese came to the Portland Timbers.

On the field, Dos Santos prefers a 4-3-3, with Montero as the lone striker. Montero is tied for the lead on the team with two goals. As a team, they’ve scored 10, but have allowed 14, making a negative goal differential.

They’re only a point off the Timbers with nine; a win here, however, would not only get them a leg up in the regular standings but also in the Cascadia Cup. This will be the second such match for the Caps (they drew the Sounders 0-0), while this will be the Timbers’ first Cascadia match this season.

The Whitecaps is no longer a team that has Alphonso Davies flying around everywhere scoring goals and causing a general nuisance. But they do have Montero, who is a proven goalscorer in MLS. Also, don’t sleep on Lucas Venuto, who has two goals this season, tying him with Montero.

They’re known to rotate a lot, so it’ll be interesting who is actually on the field when the whistle blows, though I would assume that Montero and Venuto will be in the starting lineup come Friday night.

They like to attack down the left side of the pitch, so look for possible overloads on that side. They also like to take shots from distance, which the Timbers defense will have to be on the lookout for. They also end up playing in their own half, which could be to the Timbers’ advantage.

Portland Timbers (3-5-1, 10pts)

Portland vs Real Salt Lake

The Timbers, as mentioned, are coming off their third win of the season in a row and have a lot of momentum coming into Vancouver. The team seems to be finding their footing and theyw illlook to continue the streak against the Caps. I’m sure they’re looking forward to getting back to Providence Park, but they need to focus on Vancouver first.

One of the things to keep an eye on is the goalkeeping situation. Jeff started the season, and now Steve Clark has been between the sticks for the last two matches. When he replaced Attinella in the Toronto FC match, I figured it was for some rest and to get Clark some minutes in the long road trip. But now he’s started two weeks in a row — and I’d bet he’s going to get another start up north in Vancouver. Are we seeing a changing of the guard? Or is this Gio just going with the hot hand now that Clark has shown he’s more than up to the task?

One person we will not see Friday night is newly acquired Brian Fernandez, as he will be sitting out the rest of his Liga MX suspension this weekend. That means the new signing will be available for selection Wednesday against the Houston Dynamo. I — along with I’m sure everyone else — am waiting for his debut. He’s going to bring (I think) another dynamic to the Timbers offense and push Jeremy Ebobisse, because Fernandez can either play on the wing or up top as a striker. It’ll be interesting to see how Gio uses his new attacker.

I’d look for the Timbers to come out in a 4-4-2, and I don’t foresee any major changes to the starting eleven.

Log Slices

Portland is 5-1-1 in its last seven matches at Rio Tinto Stadium. Those five wins are the most at any away venue for the Timbers since the club joined MLS in 2011.

The Timbers have won three consecutive road matches for the third time in MLS play and the first time since the 2015 season.

Diego Valeri is the ninth player in MLS history to score 70 or more goals and have 70 or more assists.

Sebastian Blanco scored his second goal of the season and the 20th of his Timbers career. He is the sixth player in Timbers history, across all eras, to have 20 or more goals and 20 or more assists for the club. He joins Valeri, Darlington Nagbe, Dale Mitchell, John Bain, and Clyde Best.

Blanco has scored or tallied assist in four straight matches for the second time in his career with Portland.