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Storylines: Montreal Impact vs Portland Timbers

Time to head back out on the road

MLS: Montreal Impact at Portland Timbers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far

The Portland Timbers are flying high after dispatching the Houston Dynamo 4-0 on Saturday night. It was the Brian Fernandez and Diego Valeri show, with the latter earning Player of the Week honors. Four different Timbers got in on the scoring including Marvin Loria, who scored his first MLS goal of his career. Jeremy Ebobisse also bagged a goal.

With the win, the Timbers pull themselves out of the bottom of the Western Conference and just three points out of a coveted playoff spot. While they don’t have that many road games left, the Timbers will now travel to Montreal to take on the Impact.

The Montreal Impact haven’t played a league match since June 5th when they beat a shorthanded Seattle Sounders side 2-1. The Impact currently sit second in the Eastern Conference; just four points behind the first place Philadelphia Union. Can the Impact gain ground on the Union, or will the Timbers play spoiler as they look to climb up the table and possibly to a playoff spot?

What To Watch For

Montreal Impact (8-7-3, 27 pts)

Impact vs Sounders (June 5th, 2019)

In that win over Seattle, the Impact only suited a total of 5 bench players, and while they’ve had some time to heal, they’ll still be short handed against the Timbers. They currently have players both out with injury and international duty.

They are 2-3-1 in their last six, coach Remi Garde has had to get creative with this lineups and suiting up a short bench. I would expect much of the same on Wednesday night. I’m betting the lineup won’t be changed too much from who they fielded against the Sounders. Garde likes to run a 3-4-3, with former Timber Maxi Urruti leading the charge as the striker in a front three set up.

They’ll be missing arguably their star player in Ignacio Piatti who has gone down with a knee injury and isn’t likely to see action for at least 8-12 weeks. But, there have been players that have been stepping it up for the Impact. Take for instance midfielder Saphir Taider who, in the 3-4-3 formation, finds himself out on the left wing. He leads in the Impact in goals with seven on the season, two of those a brace against Seattle.

Back to Urruti for a second, since coming over in a trade he’s fit in well with Remi Garde’s system; he has one goal and leads the Impact in assists with 5. Good thing the Timbers are very familiar with him.

Besides international duty, they have five players currently on the injured list: Ignacio Piatti (knee), Orji Okonkwo (leg injury), Mathieu Choiniere (concussion), Clement Bayiha (quad injury) and Bacary Sagna (ankle injury). That’s quite the list and is a reason they only fielded five players on the bench in Seattle.

Portland Timbers (5-7-2, 17 pts)

Timbers vs Dynamo (June 22nd, 2019)

Welcome to another midweek match up. The Timbers find themselves in the middle of a stretch that doesn’t seem to end. The Timbers will be going on short rest across the country and into Canada to take on the Montreal Impact. All bets are off when it comes to try and figure out what Gio Savarese is going to do in Montreal.

Cascante will most likely start again as Bill Tuiloma is out with a thigh injury. Either Moreira or Villafana get a night off. Zarek Valentin can fill in at either spot, and it’s entirely possible that we could have a Marco Farfan sighing (and I’m all for it). Blanco will be returning to the lineup on Wednesday night after sitting out a suspension. That’ll move Loria back to the bench and Ebobisse to the right side (maybe?).

I’m not exactly sure how Gio is managing the minutes of everyone with this tough stretch of midweek games and then a weekend game. I would sit Diego Valeri for sure, since he went the full 90 against Houston and even made an appearance in an USOC match before that, where he wasn’t (really) needed by the time he was subbed in.

A part of me wants to say that it’s possible that Brian Fernandez will start on the bench in Montreal, but my gut says Gio runs him out again. He’s chasing an MLS record, he’s currently tied with Charlie Davies (and others) with most consecutive goals to start a career in MLS. He just needs one more to hold the record. Fernandez currently has a one and a half goals per 90 average, which (surprise) leads the Timbers. He has logged a lot of minutes since joining the team. So what does Gio do here? I honestly have no clue.

The Timbers need and should come away with a result here, I’d be happy if they go on the road and come back home with at the least a point. I don’t think that’s too much to ask against the second best team in the east. Though as sure as I write this, all three points would be very nice to bring back to Providence Park. It would also catapult the Timbers up the ladder and into a playoff spot.

Log Slices

Hats off to Steve Clark who in his first five starts of the season has gone 4-1-0 with a clean sheet. It looks as though Clark has solidified his spot between the pipes, leaving Jeff Attinella as the back-up. Quite the contrast from a year ago.

Diego Valeri tallied a goal and three assists in the win against Houston. The three-assist performance marks the fourth time in his career he has logged three assists for the Timbers in regular-season play. This also earned him MLS Player of the Week honors for Week 16.

Marvin Loria, who went 73 minutes and scored a goal in his MLS debut, is the sixth Timber to score in their MLS debut.