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Playoff Preview: Timbers vs Minnesota United

The Timbers host Minnesota United at Providence Park for round one of the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs. Here’s what to expect from Minnesota United and the match as a whole.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Orange leaves adorning Portland trees accompanied by torrential downpours means one thing: It’s playoff season in the Rose City. And after the Thorns magnificent season came to an end last weekend, all eyes now shift to the Timbers’ clash with Minnesota United at Providence Park.

So, before the Timbers kick off their 2021 MLS Cup Playoff campaign, I thought it would be wise to take a look at what their opponents Minnesota United bring to the table and how I think the match might shake out.

Minnesota United in 2021

Minnesota United finished the 2021 MLS season in fifth-place in the Western Conference on 49 points (just six points behind the Timbers), winning 13 games, drawing 10, and losing 11. The Loons had a goal difference of negative two, scoring 42 and conceding 44 over the course of the campaign. They also kept 11 clean sheets.

Minnesota’s 42 goals were the fifth-fewest in the league this season, however, they also had the third-most shots of any club in MLS, behind LAFC and NYCFC. Defensively, their 44 goals conceded was tied for the seventh-fewest in MLS. Essentially, Minnesota has a pretty solid defense mixed with a flashy, sometimes inconsistent attack.

Minnesota have several attacking players that pose a significant threat to what has proven to be a shaky Timbers’ defense this season. Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese and defender Larrys Mabiala were quick to point out the danger that Loons’ talisman Emanuel Reynoso brings to the table. Reynoso is the catalyst that United attack through and he finished the regular season with five goals and 10 assists in 28 games. Additionally, Robin Lod (nine goals, five assists) and Franco Fragapane (five goals, nine assists) will be focal points for the Loons frontline.

The Loons also roster a few famous (and infamous) faces that the Timbers faithful will recognize, with fan-favorite and MLS Cup winner Fanendo Adi set to make his return to Providence Park. Former Sounders captain Ozzie Alonso and goalkeeper Tyler Miller will also be hoping to keep the Timbers’ formidable attack at bay.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Houston Dynamo Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Match Preview

I’ll say this: Minnesota, making their third-ever playoff appearance, is a fairly tricky opening matchup for the Timbers.

Since entering MLS in 2017, Minnesota have beaten the Timbers six times in the nine games they’ve played and drawn another. The good news for Portland fans is that both of those Timbers' wins against the Loons came at Providence Park.

Neither team has reported any new injuries since Decision Day, so expect both teams to roll out full-strength lineups for this one.

In terms of how I think the match will play out, I think we’ll see a relatively cagey and conservative opening to the game, with both teams looking to win back possession and break on the counter - the Loons through Reynoso and the Timbers through Sebastian Blanco. As the match goes on and players get tired, I’m expecting the attacking power of both teams to come to the fore and for the game to turn into a back-and-forth counter attacking show.

I’m not one to usually predict results, but if I had to, here’s what I would say:

Timbers lineup: Steve Clark, Josecarlos Van Rankin, Larrys Mabiala, Dario Zuparic, Claudio Bravo, Diego Chara, Cristhian Paredes, Dairon Asprilla, Sebastian Blanco, Yimmi Chara, Felipe Mora.

Score Prediction: Timbers 3 - Minnesota United 2

Scorers: Blanco, Asprilla, Mora for the Timbers, and Reynoso x2 for Minnesota

Expect the result to be decided by whichever team can bypass the others’ defensive line and counterattack the most efficiently. If Portland can keep Reynoso, Lod, and Fragapane in check, I think that the Timbers have a really good chance of moving on to the second round of the playoffs.

For more pre-playoff content, check out Sam’s Portland Playoff X-Factors or our Stumptown Footy Bracketology.