The Portland Timbers are back below the red line in the Western Conference as they prepare to take on fourth place Minnesota United. With only four games left in the season, the Timbers need points if they want to make the playoffs, but a win against the Loons would be doubly so as it will drag the Minnesotan side back within two points of the Timbers.
Now having gone a clean 180 minutes without scoring since Jeremy Ebobisse’s dramatic extra time winer against Sporting Kansas City, the Timbers are in need of an attacking spark. Positioned to do just that is Sebastian Blanco, having made his return from injury when he was brought on in the 73rd minute of the Timbers’ 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday where he made a clear impact, nearly setting up Ebobisse for what would have been a tying goal and providing some life to a Timbers side that looked largely out of ideas going forward.
If Blanco is cleared to start, the Timbers will be in a better position to take control of the game early and, hopefully, get on the board first. When the Timbers are able to score first they are able to force their opponents into playing their sort of game. When they fall behind, as has happened in four of their last five games, the Timbers’ opponents are able to bunker down in exactly the sort of manner that has caused the Timbers problems all year.
Particularly against Minnesota, who have the third fewest goals allowed in the West, the Timbers will need to find a way to get on the board first if they want to take control of this match and keep all three points on offer here in Portland.
Storylines: “Throughout Minnesota’s almost three-year existence in MLS, the Timbers have never beaten the Loons down south, while the Loons have yet to win at Providence Park. The Timbers will need that trend to continue tonight on Sunday afternoon — because dropping all three points in this one could spell disaster.”
Watch it on: ESPN
Where: Providence Park in Portland, OR
When: Sunday, September 22nd at 1:00 p.m. PT
Portland Timbers: 13-13-4, 8th place in the Western Conference, lost 2-0 vs. New York Red Bulls
Minnesota United: 14-10-6, 4th place in the Western Conference, won 3-1 vs. Real Salt Lake