The Story So Far
The Portland Timbers are riding high after beating the Seattle Sounders in their own building. The win was built upon another brace by Brian Fernandez, leading to the 2-1 scoreline. With the win, the Timbers are just two points from a playoff place, averaging 1.40 points per game. If all goes right, a win against the Galaxy could propel them into the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Galaxy just wrapped up a shootout win against Club Tijuana in the Leagues Cup. While they advanced, they did so by the hair of their chin with a heavily rotated lineup. Their last MLS match was on the 19th when they beat their crosstown rivals LAFC 3-2, on the back of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic hat trick.
The last time the Galaxy entered Providence they left with a 4-0 loss to go out of the U.S. Open Cup. Can the Timbers send the Galaxy packing again? Or will the Galaxy get slight revenge and get out of Portland with points in hand.
What To Watch For
Los Angeles Galaxy (12-8-1, 37 pts)
The Galaxy are 3-3-0 in their last six in the MLS. Their last match was against Club Tijuana, the Xolos took them to PK’s, where the Galaxy would prevail 3-1. As I mentioned above, their Leagues Cup match was a heavily rotated side which means we should see a full strength squad on Saturday. And this could very well include the Swedish Lion, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Last season, if I recall, he didn’t play in Portland due to the artificial turf. This season he’s played on turf and I would bet he’ll be in the starting lineup on Saturday night.
One DP that won’t be on the pitch is Romain Alessandrini. He’s out four months after having knee surgery. They’re also missing Chris Pontius, Sebastian Lletget, and Perry Kitchen. All three play a role in the LAG offense. But they’ve been surviving well on the talent they do have including 17-year-old Efren Alvarez, while he has only one assist so far this season, if he starts, look for him to be on the right wing.
Against LAFC, Schelotto deployed a 4-2-3-1, with Jona dos Santos and Joe Corona as the double pivot. Corona came over from the Xolos in Liga MX and has been filling in with Kitchen on the shelf. He played on Tuesday night, so it’s up in the air whether he gets the start or not.
The Galaxy likes to come at you from the wings, allowing the field to be stretched. Expect both Timbers fullbacks will have their hands full. Look for their fullbacks to get forward and hit crosses into the box; they had 13 against LAFC. They really like having the ball and possessing it in their opponents end.
While I mention their wing play, watch out with them going through the midfield. They’re strong here and I think it’s where the game is going to be fought. I think that this will come down to a battle of wills, one team on just three days rest - one team fully rested. One wants to gain ground on their crosstown rivals, the other looking to get into the playoff race for the first time this season.
Portland Timbers (8-8-4, 28 pts)
The Timbers are currently riding a five match unbeaten run and look to add to that Saturday night. I don’t think there will be many or any changes from the team we saw take the field on Sunday. It looks for now as though Julio Cascante is the starter, with Tuiloma finding himself on the bench after coming back from injury. Cascante has been playing well as of late so I see no reason to mess with a good thing.
Brian Fernandez has been a revelation on this team, and I don’t see him slowing down. He knew how important his two goals were in the derby with the Sounders. I have no doubt about his ability and he is the striker this team sorely needed the past two seasons. And with that, hopefully Ebobisse adjusts to life on the wing or bench. I only see him getting a start up top to rest Fernandez once in a while.
I don’t expect the Galaxy to come into Providence Park and bunker like Orlando and other teams have done in the limited amount of home matches the Timbers have had so far this season. The defense is really going to have to be at their best, especially if Zlatan does indeed start. The guy has 16 goals this season and leads his team by far in this category. But we know that one man does not make a team, though I’m sure Zlatan thinks differently.
As far as the wounded for this match, Farfan is out for the foreseeable future. Jeff Attinella still suffering from a bum shoulder and Andy Polo seems to have a hip injury, both are listed as questionable. I would be fine if Polo sat on the bench, he hasn’t looked all that impressive since he’s returned from the Copa America.
The Timbers need to buckle up and start getting positive results at home. If the Timbers want back into the playoffs for the second time under Gio Savarese, they need to be picking up points at home.
Diego Chara will be out with yellow card accumulation.
Brian Fernandez is currently sporting 1.06 goals per 90 minutes, which is better than Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 0.94 goals per 90.
The teams are meeting for the second time this season in MLS, third across all competitions. Ibrahimović scored a pair of goals, both from penalty kicks, as the Galaxy took a 2-1 win on March 31 at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Diego Valeri recorded his 11th assist of the season, his first since a three-assist night on June 22. The 11 assists are now tied for his fourth-most in a season; his single-season career-high is 14, set in 2014.
Sebastian Blanco collected his eighth assist of the season, his first since June 30.