The Portland Timbers are in the playoffs, everybody.
After a long, long regular season, the Timbers have finally made the post season in an even year, securing their fifth place spot with a pair of wins over Real Salt Lake to close out the season. Now, just three days after a B-side scrimmage against the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Timbers have headed southeast to take on FC Dallas in the MLS Cup knockout round.
In FCD, the Timbers have an opponent with a strong defensive record and the ability to create chances on the break, but also one that is mired in an end of season slump that has seen them nosedive for much of the second half of the year before wrapping up the 2018 season with a three game losing streak.
For the Timbers, today’s match will be a do or die test for Giovanni Savarese’s tactical approach. After spending much of the season in either a 4-3-2-1 or experimenting with other formations and combinations of personnel, the Timbers seems to have settled on the tried and true 4-2-3-1. However, most of the Timbers best performances with the formation have come against RSL — a side that is eminently exploitable by Timbers’ preferred counterattacking style. So, how Savarese approaches this playoff match against a vastly different Dallas side remains up in the air, giving the Timbers a chance to stay the course or once again makes the sort of changes that could steer the team toward triumph or failure.
Regardless of how the Timbers line up, they come into this match with their core of veteran players — Diego Valeri, Diego Chara, Sebastian Blanco, Liam Ridgewell, and Larrys Mabiala are all over 30 — healthy and rested. Despite the turmoil of the second half of the season, the timbers look like a team ready for the playoffs.
Storylines: “Dallas are in a mini freefall; they’ve lost three in a row, and goals have been hard to come by. Head coach Oscar Pareja pulled out all the stops in Colorado, fielding his first-choice XI, which could handcuff his team come Halloween night, since the Timbers rotated against Vancouver and will be better-rested.”
Watch it on: Root Sports, Unimas
Where: Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX
When: Wednesday, October 31st at 6:30 p.m. PT
Portland Timbers: 15-10-9, finished 5th in the Western Conference
FC Dallas: 16-9-9, finished 4th in the Western Conference