The MLS is Back and the first game should be a great test for the season ahead of both teams. The New England Revolution and Portland Timbers face off in Portland, Oregon on Saturday. New England is coming off of a Supporters Shield winning 2021 MLS season. The team is also nursing the wounds from an early against the eventual MLS Cup winners. Portland is coming back from mourning a home loss in the MLS Cup only two months ago.
Strong Preseason, Big Turnover
The Portland Timbers took their team that eventually challenged the top team in MLS for the MLS Cup and seemingly imploded it. Diego Valeri, Jeremy Ebobisse, Renzo Zambrano, and Steve Clark are some of the bigger names to have left. They did however replace those players with incoming transfers. The Timbers brought in two South American players, right-winger Santiago Moreno and defensive midfielder David Ayala. Steve Clark was replaced by Justin Vom Teeg and David Bingham. We’ll see which of the goalkeepers on this team will end up with the #1 spot, starting with this game on Saturday.
Before heading into the first game this weekend, Portland has had several chances to show off their team as multi-faceted and strong. From February 13th to February 19th, the team faced off in a “tournament” against Norway’s Viking FK, Real Salt Lake, and Minnesota United FC. They won two out of the three games, losing to Viking FK while sporting an academy-based starting eleven and going down a man with 35 minutes left. Portland took out Minnesota United 1-0 again while down to ten men. The Timbers also put three goals past Real Salt Lake to win that game with eleven-a-side.
What Dangers Do The Timbers Pose?
The Timbers have consistently provided a challenge for the Revolution. Especially at home, Portland has never allowed the Revolution to win in Providence Park in the regular season. Their attack is always prevalent. Last year, they provided 56 goals scored during the regular season. This amount was top five in the league last year. Felipe Mora, Dairon Asprilla, Sebastián Blanco, and Yimmi Chará championed the top of the scoring for Portland.
Between those four, they scored more than half of the total goals scored at 34! It’s safe to say that we’ll see Mora and Asprilla keep the goals flowing at the top of the formation. As well, Yimmi and Blanco will provide key passes for goals and score a few of their own. Adding to that, they acquired a young winger, Santiago Moreno, who provided great goals and assists for CD America in 2021. So, if any one of those players above isn’t up to the task, Moreno could provide decent depth.
The Timbers have allowed around 50 goals a season on the regular for the past few years. Their offense-heavy formations have banked on scoring more than their opponent, more than keeping the goals out. In 34 regular season matches last year, they only achieved 10 clean sheets. They are attempting to fix the problem this year with the addition of a newer, younger goalkeeping core. The addition of the new CDM, David Ayala, should provide better cover if Diego Chará isn’t up to the task this year. As well, can possibly create a stronger defensive formation, if Portland finds it necessary to win games.
Injuries Plague Timbers This Week
Another weakness they’re running into for this game is a large number of injuries. Currently, six players are out this week. Felipe Mora, Eryk Williamson, Dario Zuparic, Pablo Bonilla, Larrys Mabiala, and Tega Ikoba find themselves out of the team’s game-day roster. They will likely bring in the new winger Moreno to help the attack alongside Dairon Asprilla. With the amount of regularly rostered defenders on the injury list, going with a more defensive midfield formation might help hide some of the deficiencies.
Keys To Unlocking Portland Timbers
With plenty of firepower, skill, and speed Portland is typically an attacking squad. Missing Felipe Mora, the team will likely have one traditional striker in Asprilla. For the Revolution, who have bolstered their midfield, they will need to make sure to use that possession-based strength. This will help keep Portland from moving it up the field quickly and regularly. As well, a strong press will help to fracture an already cracking backline. I would love to see all the DPs see the field and provide chances from everywhere. Adding Altidore into the line-up will provide the DPs with another outlet, or another player to pull their markers.
Most Important Timbers Information
Please remember that Portland’s ownership and GMs are not fit to keep their positions within the team. They have allowed sexual harassment reports to go without a full investigation. Merrit Paulson and Gavin Wilkinson have allowed Andy Polo to stay within the league while instances of domestic abuse were brought to their attention. The Timbers and Thorns players, of course, deserve your respect, but we cannot allow the GM and President to squeak by with no discourse. YOU KNEW.