The Story So Far
The Portland Timbers advanced to the semi-finals of the U.S. Open Cup with a 1-0 victory over the best team in MLS. Jeremy Ebobisse scored the goal that broke the deadlock and put the Timbers ahead for good in the 84th minute. Now the Timbers return home to take on the Colorado Rapids, who currently occupy the basement in the Western Conference.
The Colorado Rapids are coming off a 2-1 loss at home to the New England Revolution and with it came the end of their unbeaten run (7 matches). In the same match, midfielder Kellyn Acosta was sent off in added time and will miss the Timbers match. The Rapids will be looking to improve on their terrible road record which sits at 1-5-2. Can the Rapids steal a point in a non-snowy Providence Park, or will the Timbers prevail and get another three points as they march up the Western Conference table?
What To Watch For
Colorado Rapids (5-10-4, 19 pts)
During their unbeaten run, one of the bright spots for the Rapids was their defense, which for most of the season wasn’t the case. They racked up three clean sheets and allowed six goals in seven matchups. But don’t let that fool you, while their defense has been one of the best in the league in the last few matches, the team as a whole is just as bad this year as they were last year. They’re only three wins away from their total last season (8), so maybe that’s an improvement?
Their style of play is pretty straight forward: attack down the middle of the pitch, though look for them to bypass the middle field with balls over the top from time to time. Other than that, they’re pretty weak in all other areas. They have a real hard time protecting a lead, once they actually get one. They’re weak down the wings and look for the Timbers to take full advantage of that.
Coach Conor Casey likes to run a 4-2-3-1, with the always dangerous Kei Kamara leading the attack as the lone striker. He leads the Rapids in goals with 8 and scored back in Colorado during the Snow Classico, which ended in a 3-3 draw. Since coming over from Sporting Kansas City, Diego Rubio has become a key cog in the Colorado offense in his first season as a Rapid. He’s second on the team in goals with four, and he’s logged one assist so far in 2019.
Midfielder and former FC Dallas homegrown player Kellyn Acosta has done okay for himself since coming to the Rapids. Though he is not a player the Timbers will really need to worry about this time around, he’ll be sitting out the match as he picked up a red card in the loss against the New England Revolution.
Portland Timbers (7-8-2, 23 pts)
With the Timbers putting out a pretty strong lineup on Wednesday night, they will likely be faced with some rotation against the Rapids. Several of the Timbers first choice players got a run out against LAFC, though captain Diego Valeri only played 16 minutes as a sub in Southern California, so I’d expect for him to start. But from there it gets a little fuzzy, most everyone that played Wednesday played 90 minutes. The only ones that didn’t were Marvin Loria (74), Jeremy Ebobisse (85) and Sebastian Blanco (89).
What Gio does from here is a mystery to me, though I figure we’ll see Flores, Farfan, Dielna just to name a few. The Timbers have proved that they can win with a somewhat rotated side (see NYCFC). I wouldn’t be surprised if a full rotation was done here. Dielna will slide in next to Cascante (or Mabiala) since Tuiloma is still listed as out. Villafana is still out as well, so I’d expect Farfan there with most likely Moreira getting the start on the other side, since (and I’m going by last season) Gio usually doesn’t like to use Zarek Valentin on short rest.
Looking into the midfield, I could see Chara getting another rest, starting Victor Zambrano and Andres Flores in the defensive midfield. Of course there’s Valeri, I figure Asprilla on one side, Ebobisse either on the wing or up top, that all depends on what Savarese wants to do with Brian Fernandez. As much as I’d like to see him get a start, dude has been going non-stop since he set foot in Portland and is due at least one match of rest.
Coming to think of it, with the Copa America over, the Timbers should have the services of Andy Polo back. I honestly not sure what Polo’s status is, but if he’s available he could slot in with Asprilla on the wings, putting Ebobisse as the loan striker. Even as a rotated side, this team is pretty dangerous.
QUESTIONABLE: Bill Tuiloma (D) - right thigh injury
QUESTIONABLE: Jorge Villafaña (D) - left thigh injury
QUESTIONABLE: Aljaz Ivacic (GK)- neck injury
QUESTIONABLE: Jeff Attinella (GK)- right shoulder injury
QUESTIONABLE: Modou Jadama (D)- right lower leg
In their last 14 matches in all competitions, the Timbers are 10-3-1 with seven road wins, all against MLS competition.
Jeremy Ebobisse scored his sixth goal across all competitions in 2019. Ebobisse has scored two goals in U.S. Open Cup play this season, while tallying four goals in MLS competition.
Saturday’s match marks the 22nd meeting all-time between Portland and Colorado. The Timbers are 10-7-4 all-time against the Rapids, including a mark of 8-1-0 at Providence Park.
Individually, Diego Valeri has seven goals in his career against Colorado.
Referee: Kevin Stott, Assistant Referees: Jose Da Silva, Chris Elliott, 4th Official: Matt Franz, VAR: Ricardo Salazarz