The Story So Far
The Timbers are coming off a bit of a disappointing result, only able to pick up a point against the visiting Colorado Rapids. That’s two draws against them this season. Diego Valeri would notch the only Timbers goal in the 2-2 draw; the other was a Rapids own goal. The Timbers will need to work on a few things so matches like that don’t happen again — especially facing the second half of the season, when most of the matches will be at home.
Orlando is coming off a 1-0 win over Caleb Porter’s Columbus Crew. The own goal was provided by Benji Michel in the 84th minute. With that win, the Lions are only a point out of the seventh and in last spot for the playoffs. Can they come into Providence Park and steal three points? Or will the Timbers show that PP can be a place of nightmares for the opposing team and pick up three points?
What to Watch for
Orlando City SC (7-9-4, 26 pts)
In their last four matches against the Timbers, Orlando City SC has notched three wins — and they’ll be looking to add to that on Thursday. Head Coach James O’Connor will have some decisions to make ahead of the match on Sunday. Nani sat out against the Crew with food poisoning, but has returned to full training and will be available for selection. He leads the team in goals with eight and assists with four, and he averages 0.60 goals per 90. As Nani goes, so do the Lions, though they didn’t really miss him that much in Columbus.
O’Connor runs a 4-3-3 with Nani on the right wing. They’ll be short a forward, though, as Dom Dwyer picked up a straight red in stoppage time against the Crew for violent conduct ... which I’m sure absolutely no one is upset about. This will limit them somewhat in attacking options later in the match because Dwyer had been coming off the bench.
Also, the Columbus match was their fourth in 11 days. While they have a bit of time off, this is still a small turnaround, especially with a match on Sunday. So O’Connor could rotate the squad a bit from what they fielded in Orlando. While their defense held tight against the Crew, can they pull off another solid outing just days after?
While I’ve talked about Nani, there are other players that you don’t want to sleep on — such as the 27-year-old Canadian forward, Tesho Akindele. The former Rookie of the Year is second on the team with six goals and has one assist to his name. He not only brings size to the equation (6’1), he brings speed as well: The dude has some wheels. I suspect he’ll start up top, with Nani on the wing. Not to be left out, 22-year-old American winger Chris Mueller has five goals and two assists in twelve matches; most of it when coming off the bench.
I definitely wouldn’t look past Orlando: They have scoring threats, and on paper they’ve got the talent to make a playoff run ... if they can keep it together and keep winning. With a win in Portland, they would put themselves over the red line and into the playoffs. It falls to the Timbers to throw a monkey wrench into the works.
Besides Dom Dwyer (suspension), they have three players on the actual injured list. Ruled out are Cristian Higuita and Shane O’Neill, and Joao Moutinho is listed as questionable.
Portland Timbers (7-8-3, 24 pts)
A lot like Orlando City, the Timbers have have a short turnaround: They not only play on Thursday but Sunday as well, when they head up up the I-5 corridor to Seattle. So what might we see out of Giovanni Savarese for a match when you can only play the one in front of you? Do you rotate a bit with a two-off-day turnaround?
One player that will be missing for sure is center back Julio Cascante, who picked up a red Saturday against the Rapids. I’d expect Claude Dielna to get the start next to Larrys Mabiala. By my count, that leaves Zarek Valentin as the backup center back again. The problem with that is, if he has to start, who’s the backup fullback?
Things I’m sure of: Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco, Diego Chara, and Brian Fernandez are all starting. If they don’t, I’d be absolutely surprised, and I will gladly eat my hat. That leaves the lineup a bit open after that: Center back pairing is taken care of and, most likely, the fullback spots will be Moreira and Valenten. Marco Farfan and Jorge Villafana are listed as questionable, and we know that both have leg issues (hamstring), so I wouldn’t get my hopes up on them even making the 18.
In the defensive midfield, it’s either Zambrano or Flores starting alongside Chara. Could we see Andy Polo’s return to the lineup? We haven’t seen him on the pitch since his return from the Copa America finals.
Even if Jeff Attinella were healthy right now, he’d still be on the bench. Steve Clark has come up clutch in the last few matches, and he has cemented himself as the number one. So the backup is — and has been the last couple matches — Kendall McIntosh.
Brian Fernandez is still averaging over 1 goal per 90 minutes (1.08); second on the team is Jeremy Ebobisse (0.37).
Portland are undefeated in 10 of their last 11 home matches.
The MLS summer transfer window is open.
Referee: Joe Dickerson
Assistant Referees: Corey Rockwell, Michael Barwegen
4th Official: Farhad Dadkho
VAR: Allen Chapman
ETA: Injury Update (7/17)
OUT: Farfan (left knee)
QUESTIONABLE: Jeff Attinella (right shoulder), Modou Jadama (right lower leg), Larrys Mabiala (left thigh), Jorge Villafaña (left thigh), Aljaz Ivacic (neck)”
With the transfer window open, what position should the Timbers shore up?
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