The Story So Far
The Portland Timbers made the cross country trip to the heart of New York City to take on NYCFC. They fielded a semi-rotated starting 11 due to injuries,and a mid week match coming up against LAFC. They came through getting three points on the road, thanks to Sebastian Blanco’s goal just 14 minutes into the clash. Beating NYCFC brought their 12 match MLS unbeaten run to a end on Sunday.
Now the Timbers stay on the road and head into LA to face the best team in Major League Soccer for a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal.
The black and gold of LAFC dispatched the Vancouver Whitecaps with ease, pasting them 6-1. This team is firing on all cylinders and it could be an uphill climb for the Timbers. Can LAFC fend off the lads from Cascadia or will the Timbers find themselves in the semi-finals?
What To Watch For
Los Angeles Football Club (13-2-7, 43 pts)
LAFC are currently the best team in Major League Soccer, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. This will be the third meeting between the two clubs this season and so far LAFC has had their way with the Timbers.
Bob Bradley likes to use a 4-3-3, but no traditional number six; all three midfielders are expected to get into the attack as much as possible. They fielded a pretty strong lineup last time out when they took the Whitecaps to the woodshed, so I’d say there will be some light rotation. We could see Christian Ramirez and Latif Blessing; both started on the bench against Vancouver. One of Rossi or Vela will most likely start, with Blessing taking the other spot either on the right of left wing.
This is a team that’s on track to win the Supporters Shield and are heavily favored for MLS Cup, at least if they keep up this pace through the rest of the summer. Last time these two teams met in the USOC was just last season and the Timbers found themselves bounced out of the tournament. Now, both teams are looking to move on to the semifinals for just the second time in their respective club history.
This is a team that doesn’t have many weaknesses, and it shows. Carlos Vela, who is having a MVP caliber season, leads the league in goals and assists with 19 and 12 respectively. He can and will score for fun and profit. His partner in crime, Diego Rossi, is second on the team in goals with 10. I don’t think the Timbers will have to face both gentlemen on Wednesday night, I’d bet that only one of them will get the start.
Defensively, this team likes to counterpress and hunt in packs. They also like to possess the ball and play a less aggressive attack, where they force the opposing team to play more aggressive against them. Look for a short passing game and when they get in and around the box they love to play the one or two touch ball in on goal.
Portland Timbers (7-8-2, 23 pts)
Coast to coast in a matter of days, the Timbers find themselves opposite New York in sunny Southern California for the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup. It’s like deja vu all over again or something.
I’d suspect with several players not getting the start in New York, they could get the start in LA. Chara only played a few minutes off the bench and so did Jeremy Ebobisse, so they could very well start. Other players available that didn’t play in NYC include Jorge Moreira and Christian Paredes. So Gio could go with a strong lineup and make a play for the semi-finals and punt a bit with the Rapids. While I’d rather not see a total punt on Saturday, you’d think that the Timbers could rotate into that Saturday match.
Four players are listed as questionable: Jorge Villafana (though we know he’s out for a least a week or two with a hamstring injury), Jeff Attinella (shoulder issue), Bill Tuiloma, and Modou Jadama (lower leg). That last one is a shame, this would be another match for him to get some senior team minutes. With Farfan going 90 in New York, I highly doubt he starts again. I’d expect for Cascante to slot in next to Mabiala, giving Dielna the night off.
I took three paragraphs and admit it’s a bit of a crap shoot as far as personnel goes, we know the team for the most part has focused on the MLS and not the Cup; I’d like to see that change a bit. The Timbers have the depth to both fight for a trophy and balance the regular season. Seriously, on Saturday they have the Rapids at home and can rotate and still get three points.
Blanco has now scored 21 league goals in his Timbers career, which is 12th most in the club’s history across all eras.
Goalkeeper Steve Clark has recorded three consecutive shutouts in MLS play and four consecutive shutouts in all competitions this year.
This will be again broadcast on ESPN+, if you don’t have it - you can sign up for a trial and get the match. There is no blackout rule in effect.