The games are coming thick and fast for the Portland Timbers. Just three days after battling to a 1-1 draw with Nashville SC, the Timbers face yet another team above them in the standings in the form of FC Dallas. With just ten games left in the regular season, it’s nearing do-or-die time for the boys in green.
A Look at the Opposition
FC Dallas’ season has been... well, very FC Dallas. Their roster is young, and they haven’t been afraid to play the kids— and endure the growing pains that happens when you do so— all year. Under new head coach Nico Estevez Dallas’ ethos has remained largely the same as recent years. But this year, they’ve been enjoying some league-leading levels of production from their attackers.
Star striker Jesus Ferreira is in the midst of a career year, having tallied 12 goals of the season, good for third place in the MLS golden boot race. Offseason acquisition Paul Arriola has also chipped in nine goals this year, and his trade looks like one of the moves of the winter.
After those two however, Dallas’ offense drops off considerably. Dallas’ next two highest scorers, Franco Jara and Alan Velasco, have only three goals a piece on the year. Dallas’ offense leans considerably on Arriola and Ferreira, the latter of whom also leads Dallas in assists with five on the year.
In an effort to boost their offense, Dallas recently traded for attacking midfielder Sebastian Lletget, most recently of the New England Revolution. Timbers fans might remember him from the home opener, when he scored New England’s second goal on the night. While not guaranteed, there is a decent chance he takes the field at Providence Park again for his new club tonight.
Defensively, Dallas has conceded the second fewest goals in the Western Conference. Buoyed by stalwart centerback Matt Hedges and some key stops from new goalkeeper Maarten Paes, Dallas has only conceded more than one goal once in their past seven games.
That production has so far been enough for the Burn, who currently stand in fourth place in the West, three points ahead of the Timbers. They have recently suffered a dip in form, only winning two of their last ten games. But they’re a resolute opponent, who like Portland are seeking to solidify their position as playoff contenders as the season enters the stretch run.
Timbers Team News & Outlook
The last time the Timbers played Dallas this year, it, uh, didn’t go so well. The Texas curse struck again, and Portland got spanked to the tune of a 4-1 loss in Frisco back in March.
But of course, that is to be expected of the Timbers in the Lone Star State. In Oregon, Portland’s record against the Burn has actually been quite good. Portland hasn’t lost to Dallas at home in the regular season since 2016, and have won three of the last four regular season meetings with Dallas at Providence Park.
History might be on Portland’s side tonight, but the injury report still may not be. The trio of Cristhian Paredes, George Fochive, and most crucially Eryk Williamson all still remain listed as questionable after missing out on Wednesday night. Claudio Bravo, who was a late scratch on Wednesday after picking up a hamstring injury, also might not be available.
Injury report for #RCTID vs #DTID this Saturday.— Charlie Folkestad (@folkestad3) August 5, 2022
Paredes and Williamson missed last game while being “questionable,” while Bravo is added after being a late scratch Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/KGhOgrXkMS
Two players the Timbers can count on returning are Diego Chara and Dairon Asprilla, with both players coming back from yellow card suspension. Both will be welcome sights to see back on the field for the Timbers. Asprilla scored in his last outing at Providence Park, and the elder Chara brother is aging like fine wine, enjoying a vintage season in the midfield.
Both will be essential to helping Portland keep Dallas at bay, and generate offense of their own. Ferreira is the type of player who likes to drop off the front line to pick up the ball in the midfield and generate Dallas’ offense, so the likes of Diego Chara and whomever partners him in the middle of the field will have to be prepared to deny Ferreira the time he needs to be influential.
Offensively, Portland’s offense lacked a bit of that direct bite on Wednesday. With Asprilla back in the fold, head coach Giovanni Savarese can afford to set up his team to directly challenge the Dallas backline, keeping their fullbacks and the likes of Paul Arriola honest and preventing them from pushing too far up the field.
Crucially, Portland is coming off just a three day turnaround from Wednesday’s draw— one less day of rest than Dallas. The Timbers will be carrying some heavy legs into the game, which may start to show in the second half. So, it is essential that Portland creates and capitalizes on chances early, to keep the game in front of them and allow them to dictate it at their own pace.
The importance of this game can’t be understated: tonight is a nigh must-win for the Timbers. Three points would help Portland stay in the thick of the fight for the playoffs, and solidify themselves as a contender for finishing in the top half of the Western Conference table.
A loss would be a significant blow that puts the Timbers behind their rivals in the West, and heap significantly more pressure on their final few games. It would reduce Portland’s margin of error in those games to basically nothing.
I believe that Savarese and the team recognizes all of the above. This entire summer run has been about Portland rising to the occasion when they’re called upon— and I think they will answer the bell yet again tonight.
I’m calling a 3-1 Timbers win, with Asprilla, Moreno, and Niezgoda tallying for Portland. Ferreira nabs one late, but Portland gets all three points to set themselves up for a riot of a final two months of the season.