The Timbers played host to Minnesota United’s first MLS match in history, an unforgettable night that was utterly forgettable as the Loons lost 5-1 including three goals allowed in the last ten minutes. Christian Ramirez scored his first goal and the team’s first MLS goal that March evening. Previously, United played Portland during the Timbers’ preseason tournament each of the last two years, drawing 2-2 this year but losing 4-0 last year.
Ted Unkel will serve as pweeper in chief. It’s Unkel’s 7th time in charge of an MLS match this season. The last time out was the now infamous Orlando City-Chicago Fire game on June 4th. That was the match where Unkel sent off two Orlando City players and ended up the target of some post match social-media harassment from some Lions supporters. Minnesota United fans may remember him from the late April defeat against San Jose where he was both even-handed and less inclined to deal cards than he has been in other matches. The only complaint at that time was a (potentially) missed penalty call.
D Joseph Greenspan (concussion) – Out
M Bernardo Añor (hamstring injury) – Out
D Thomas de Villardi (left Achilles) – Out
D Marc Burch (hernia injury) – Out
D Liam Ridgewell (quad strain) – Out
D Chance Myers (hamstring injury) – Out
D D Gbenga Arokoyo (Achilles tear) – Out
F Jack Barmby (ankle injury) – Out
F Darren Mattocks (adductor injury) – Questionable
The injury to Marc Burch and not having Justin Davis in Salt Lake City led to a strange backline formation for the Loons last week, with Thiesson being forced to move to LB to accommodate Kevin Venegas. This week should have a backline with everyone in the more natural positions, with Justin Davis projected to take over the LB role and Jerry returning to the right.
As we saw at RSL, the lack of a true No. 10 continues to cripple the Loons attack. The chasm between Ibson and Ramirez/Danladi has left the loons scoreless since May 27. Employing their usual 4-2-3-1, Minnesota would be wise to ask Molino and Ibarra to cut inside more, filling that gap and allowing more space on the wings for JD and Jerry to work their way into the attack. This approach would leave Minnesota vulnerable to a counter attack, especially against a possible midfield of Nagbe, Valeri, and Blanco, but the tradeoff appears to be worth it with the Loon’s recent string of eggs on the scoreboard.
For the Timbers, this match is sandwiched in between a strange loss at Colorado last Saturday and an “MLS Rivalry Week” matchup with Seattle on Sunday. How much the club rests players on a road game in Minnesota to prepare for the Cascadia battle remains to be seen, but the club should have enough attacking power even with a few components rested to field a dangerous squad.
Anything can happen at home in MLS, but Portland’s offensive firepower may be too much for the Loons’ defense to try and stop. A midfield of Guzman and Chara could frustrate Ibson and therefore stunt the Minnesota attack. On the other hand, the Timbers’ backline tends to give up goals, especially on the road (including two to Colorado).
The Timbers need to play to their attacking potential while shutting down Ibson in midfield. If Portland manages to remove Ibson from the game, Minnesota will (again) struggle to piece together any offense.
Minnesota needs to find a way to connect the midfield and attackers to provide some (read: ANY) service to Christian. The team has shown a high-pressure start in the last two outings, but it has fizzled shortly after. Keeping up that pressure and nabbing the first goal or two would go a long way towards nabbing a point (or three) at home.
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