A Look at the Opposition
I’m sure everyone is well aware of the acquisitions Toronto (7-5-12, 13th in the East) made to their squad in the summer transfer window after a dreadful start to their season. But in case you aren’t, allow me to catch you up to speed.
The most notable of their mid-season arrivals came from Serie A in the form of Lorenzo Insigne, who scored 124 goals and provided 95 assists in all competitions for Napoli over 13 seasons. Toronto also added long-time Zenit St. Petersburg, Genoa, and Italian national team defender Domenico Criscito, and winger Federico Bernardeschi from Juventus one summer removed from being used as a super-substitute during Italy’s Euro 2020 winning run.
Toronto also acquired three Canadian National Team starters in center-back Doneil Henry, wing-back/midfielder Richie Laryea from recently-promoted Premier League side Nottingham Forest, and defensive midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye in a blockbuster trade with the Colorado Rapids.
Having said all of that Toronto’s form has been extremely volatile in recent weeks, taking just seven points from their previous eight MLS matches and losing the Canadian Championship final to the Vancouver Whitecaps in the process. Their only two wins since June 25 have been a 4-0 thrashing of a ten-man Charlotte FC, and a 4-3 ‘MLS is drunk’ triumph over Nashville SC in their last outing.
Timbers Team News & Outlook
For the first time in a few weeks the Portland Timbers (7-12-6, 7th in the West) will go into a match with a nearly clean bill of health, and look set to welcome back several key first-team players:
Nobody listed as questionable on the Timbers availability report, which means Williamson, Bravo and Paredes will for sure be available tomorrow. #RCTID— Ryan Clarke (@RyanTClarke) August 12, 2022
Both Williamson and Bravo featured for the Timbers against FC Dallas but were limited to 36 and 45 minute cameos respectively, having recently recovered from hamstring injuries. Paredes hasn’t played since the 2-1 win against the San Jose Earthquakes on July 23, and will be a welcome boost to what has looked a tired middle of the park in recent weeks.
Speaking of recent weeks, the Timbers seem to have hit a wall in terms of form, drawing each of their last three matches in a time when wins are becoming more and more imperative. I’ve spoken about injuries and tired legs playing a part in that already, but the biggest issue in recent weeks has been defensive lapses on opposition set-pieces. Dallas’ (albeit fortunate) goal came from a corner, as did Nashville’s the week before, and Minnesota’s first of four back on July 30.
To put it simply, the Timbers’ set piece defending has cost them six points in the last two weeks and if they want to make the playoffs they have to become more resolute on corners and free-kicks.
Despite Toronto’s poor form it’s going to be extremely difficult for the Timbers to come away from BMO Field with any points, and the additions they made to their squad might just be too much for a tired Timbers squad to handle. Couple that with Portland’s defensive issues and I think the 10 game unbeaten streak will come to an end in Toronto with a 2-0 loss. However, the Timbers did win in their last trip up north, and if this team has proven anything to us, it’s to expect the unexpected.