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Storylines: FC Cincinnati vs Portland Timbers

The Timbers road show continues with a stop at the home of Skyline Chili

MLS: Portland Timbers at Los Angeles FC Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far

The Timbers are coming off a four goal drubbing by LAFC; they played poorly and the results showed. Now, the Portland Timbers are headed into match three of a 12-match road trip and maybe there’s a reprieve on the horizon? The Timbers take a trip to Cincinnati to take on MLS’ newest club FC Cincinnati, in what will be FCC’s home opener.

FCC is coming off their first MLS point as they drew defending MLS champs Atlanta United 1-1. With the confidence of being able to hang with the best, they’ll be looking to notch three points at home in front of what should be a sell out crowd at Nippert Stadium. Also be on the lookout for some familiar faces in the Orange and Blue.

Both teams are looking for their first win of the season; one ready to do it in front of a home crowd, the other looking to pick up more than a point on a long road trip.

What To Watch For

FC Cincinnati (0-1-1, 1pt)

FC Cincinnati vs Atlanta United

So far in two matches, expansion side FC Cincinnati have used two different formations, a 4-4-2 against Atlanta United which seemed to do the trick and a 4-2-3-1 which didn’t work as well when they got drubbed in Seattle in their first match of the season.

There will be three familiar faces on the other side of the ball on Sunday: right-back Alvas Powell and strikers Fanendo Adi and Darren Mattocks. The big man has yet to score a goal and after two matches has only managed a 0.50 shots on goal per game average. Powell is Powell and we know how he plays and he’s already had a couple Powell moments where he seems to just check out of the match for a second or two, long enough for the opposing team to smoke him. If I’m the Timbers, I go after Powell and not left-back Greg Garza.

Look for FCC to attack through the middle of the pitch, when they’re not launching long balls down the field. In the first two matches, they’ve grown accustomed to playing in their own half due to not being able to hold on to the ball that long. Also, look for them to try and play a number of through balls trying to split the center-backs.

I know it’s just two matches so small sample size ahead: FCC averages just 38.6% possession, and just over five shots per game. Even though it’s early, this team seems ripe for the taking. Though, it will be interesting to see how they play in front of their home crowd.

Portland Timbers (0-1-1, 1pt)

Timbers vs LAFC

As I mentioned in the opening, Gio Savarese and the Portland Timbers suffered a four goal loss to an LAFC team that has been picked by experts to have a shot at the Supporters Shield. But hey, we’re only headed into the third match of the season, so I’m in the, “when I see it, I’ll believe it” camp. It’s time to put LAFC in the rear-view and look ahead to expansion side FC Cincinnati.

In MLS, we already know that winning on the road is a tough task for any team; just ask D.C. United how their season went until they spent the last half of the season playing in their new home and managed to get into the playoffs. Same goes for the Timbers, two down and only 10 more road matches to go before the they get 12 of their last 13 at home.

Just going by the player ratings on there were three Timbers that had way below average matches: Julio Cascante (5.8), Larrys Mabiala (5.6), and Diego Chara (4.8), though most of that low rating for Chara is because of the stupid red card. Which means that the Timbers will be without their longest tenured player. A player that the Timbers can’t seem to win without.

It’s a mystery to me who Gio will start alongside David Guzman, will it be Andres Flores or Cristhian Paredes? For both it would be their first starts of the season. Paredes has yet to play even a single minute, while Flores has played a grand total of four minutes coming off the bench.

From what I’ve seen with my own eyes, and the player ratings of Cascante and Mabiala, neither defender has gotten off on the right foot. There seems to be a Ridgewell-sized hole in the center of defense (I can’t believe I just wrote that). One has to wonder how much of a leash Cascante has before Gio gives a shot to either Bill Tuiloma or newly acquired Claude Dielna?

Log Slices

Portland has posted a record of 5-3-2 against expansion clubs in their inaugural MLS seasons. When playing an MLS expansion team for the first time, the Timbers have notched a 4-2-1 record, outscoring their opponents 11-8 in those seven matches. Sunday’s match will mark the first MLS match between Portland and Cincinnati.

One of the things that the Timbers need to work on is holding a lead late in the half and at the end of the final minutes of the match. I’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating, the Timbers concede the most goals in the dying minutes of half and the game. It plagued them all last season; this team needs to come together to close out winnable matches.

Sunday’s match will be televised nationally on FS1.

While Adi hasn’t yet scored against his former team (helps he hasn’t played them yet) Darren Mattocks is a different story: Mattocks scored his first professional goal against Portland on May 27, 2012... Mattocks also scored a goal the last time he faced Portland on Aug. 18, 2018.

FC Cincinnati was awarded an MLS expansion club on May 29, 2018 - just 277 days before the Orange and Blue opened league play last Saturday. That is the third-fastest time in league history between the announcement of a club’s expansion team to when it officially started play.

Referees for this match are: Ismail Elfath, AR: Kathryn Nesbitt, Jeffrey Greeson


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