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Week 27: A look ahead to Portland Timbers

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The Rapids head to the Rose City this weekend to face the lumberjacks of Portland.

John A. Babiak - @Photog_JohnB

The Rapids head to the Rose City this weekend to face the lumberjacks of Portland.

Before we get started here, I need to admit my bias that the Portland Timbers is my second team. I grew up in Corvallis, and have been following the Timbers for years. But, the Rapids will always be my first team, so hopefully that means you won’t completely disregard everything I will say here. With that, how do the Rapids look as we return to playing MLS teams, especially after the epic and terrible result against our arch rivals?

The Timbers have been quietly one of the best teams in all of MLS for most of the year. They started very slowly, with two ties and three losses over their first five games. But after that, they went on the league’s best run of the season, going for 16 games straight without a loss. We will be coming into Providence Park as the Timbers look to keep one of the best home records of the season, currently at 8-2-3.

Additionally, they will be coming off of a tie against New England Revolution, an MLS team looking to get above the playoff line, while we are coming off of a very close win against one of the worst USL teams.

The Timbers’ lineup has been in flux, with some criticism on their new coach, Giovanni Savarese. He has taken this criticism into account as he has tried to move around his lineup. Recently, they were playing a 3-5-2 but have since shifted to a 4-3-2-1 (affectionately referred to as the Christmas Tree). This Christmas Tree lineup seems to be their new go-to favorite, so I’m expecting them to play in this lineup come this weekend.

Building out of the back, we start with their goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. He has been largely a serviceable goalkeeper, helping to maintain the Timbers’ Goals Against at a fairly low 36 over the course of 26 games. Their defense has been changing recently, partly due to a change in their roster thanks to the summer transfer window. We are most likely to see Lawrence Olum in either a centerback or a defensive mid position, along with their returning player Jorge Villafaña. We may also see Larrys Mabiala, Zarek Valentin, Julio Cascante, and Alvas Powell in either centerback or wingback positions. Their midfield is held by Diego Chara and David Guzmán, along with forward Andy Polo, on loan from Club Atlético Monarcas Morelia, a club in Liga MX. Expect to see a good number of these guys where I guess you would hang the better ornaments on your tree.

What the Rapids need to be afraid of is the Timbers’ offense, which I would consider to be their trump card. While they may not have the sheer numbers of an Atlanta United or an LAFC, they are still nonetheless very reliable. Much like the Rapids, they don’t score a lot of goals in each game, but they are nearly guaranteed to score at least one in the game. They have only gone 5 games without scoring, compared to the Rapids 7. Boy, it feels weird to call our team reliable at scoring goals...

Diego Valeri, Timbers’ Designated Player and winner of the 2017 MLS MVP award, leads their goal production with 9 goals and 11 assists. Just behind him is forward Samuel Armenteros with 8 goals and 1 assist. He has been starting to pick up the pace, enough that they could afford to trade their previous DP Fanendo Adi to FC Cincinnati over the summer window. They are joined by their second DP Sebastian Blanco, who has 6 goals and 6 assists. These three are nearly guaranteed to be playing, as the Timbers will look to help solidify their spot in the playoffs.

In order for the Rapids to walk away with points out of this game, and I’m afraid to say it… we need to bunker down and play some Pabloball(™). With Niki Jackson and Nana Boateng both out due to red card suspension, our strikers will be playing a tough battle. We need to dominate possession (maintain over 50% possession) and limit Portland’s offensive chances.

After giving Cole Bassett his first appearance last week against Tulsa, I’m hoping that he can get his first appearance in MLS on the road. At this point, playoffs are out of the question, so we might as well see what our young homegrown can do, and also give him some valuable experience on the pitch with the team.

This might be a challenging game, but I think we can walk out with a point. With our lack of depth combined with us going into Providence Park, it won’t be easy, but Portland has started to fumble around a bit as well. Here’s to a good game this weekend as the Rapids look to turn around after the game which shall no longer be mentioned.