The Portland Timbers fell in Toronto on Saturday, as they were unable to overcome a 6’ Sebastian Giovinco beauty.
Rooted in 9th place in the West, kept out of the cellar solely by virtue of their three wins to Colorado’s two, Portland returns to the Rose City for a midweek clash with East (and overall) leading D.C. United. With a trip to Oregon sandwiched between two Eastern games, Ben Olson left a number of regulars at home.
D.C. plays a clean 4-4-2, winning matches with discipline and timely scoring. Despite bringing a less-than-full squad, most of United’s backbone is making the trip. USMNT ‘keeper Bill Hamid starts in net behind the very solid line of Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Kofi Opare, and Taylor Kemp. Caleb Porter disciple Perry Kitchen anchors the midfield.
With Nick DeLeon, Fabian Espindola, Chris Rolfe, Michael Farfan, and Davy Arneaud back in D.C., the Timbers have a real chance to capitalize. Of course, since nothing can be easy, Caleb Porter announced today that Diego Valeri has a sprained ankle and won’t play on Wednesday…or Saturday. Hopefully Will Johnson will be back.
El Maestro’s absence means Gaston Fernandez is likely back in the XI. La Gata subbed on for Valeri 25’ into the Toronto match and looked lively. Considering that most of DC’s absentees for this one are offensive, the Timbers will have to break down a packed defensive third, which has not been their strong suit this year. Portland’s talented-but-inconsistent offensive front – Nagbe, Wallace (Asprilla), Adi (Urruti), and Fernandez need to click. When it works, the Timbers hang three goals on Dallas and win the game. When it doesn’t, it’s everything else, which has not been pretty.
It’s been a long year already, painful at times, and yet this team has yet to play with their full starting XI. Remarkably, the season still has 22 matches left, which is more than enough time to turn it around.
With three points there for the taking, home cooking can do the Timbers a world of good.