Still winless on the season, Portland haven't gotten to the best of starts and coughing up a two goal lead late in the game to archrivals Seattle only adds to the pain. Depending on how you look at it, this could be good news or bad news for the Goats.
This weekend's matchup also marks the return of the familiar faces of Ben Zemanski, Rauwshan McKenzie, and good ol' Jorge Villafana. I think I speak for the rest of Goatland when I say it's still very weird seeing Villafana in green.
CUSA will be coming off two consecutive weeks of being punched in the gut. The abs are sore and a win in the hostile confines of Portland would be the perfect remedy.
Portland Timbers Scouting Report:
Porter Ball - Portland's a team that will pass you to death. They maintain great possession and work the ball up in a steady motion. It's quite entertaining. On top of that, Porter mixes that possession to utilize the speed and athleticism on the wing. There's no doubt the Timbers will play attacking football on Saturday.
Combo Passing - Like last week's opponent, The Timbers like to use their technical skill to get by opponents on the attack. Players like Darlington Nagbe and Kalif Alhassan (should he once again get the start over Gaston Fernandez) get up and down the field and CUSA might be seeing a bit of the same dangerous 1-2 passes that LAG used to break down CUSA in their defensive third.
The Portland offense has awoken - Despite the doughnut in the win column and the disastrous 15 minutes that saw Portland lose their chance at 3 points, their beast of an offense may have finally awoken. Before the Seattle game, they only had scored 2 goals in 4 games and both were courtesy of Gata Fernandez. All it took was a Cascadia rivalry at home for them to explode for 4 goals by 3 different players, including a spectacular brace by defensive mid Diego Chara. Everyone's getting involved.
Slow Starts, Uphill Battles: Portland has a problem with getting out of the bed in the morning and seem to always get off to slow starts. They have yet to score first in any game and as a result find themselves looking at the tough task at scoring at least 2 goals to get those 3 points. This undeniably plays a role in the Timbers' gameplan as the desperate push for a goal opens the game up for opponents to capitalize on.
They Give up Set Pieces - With the uptempo attack, the Timbers have a tendency to get out of place on the counter and resort to fouls. This tends to happen with high possession teams that resort to high lines of pressure. It's no surprise that CUSA and POR are among the lead in fouls and yellows so this could be that type of game. Both teams are capable of capitalizing on set piece opportunities as Will Johnson, Diego Valeri, and Mauro Rosales will make teams pay from outside the box.
The Argentine Disconnection - The Timbers raised a few eyebrows this off-season when they put together a formidable quartet of Argentine talent. Unfortunately, things haven't immediately fallen into place. Gata Fernandez's lack of pace has slowed down Portland's fast-paced attack. Maximiliano Urruti hasn't lived up to his hype and fails to make much of an impression on the game, needing someone to create for him. Norberto Paparatto had a pretty solid start to the season and doesn't make many mistakes, but when he does, they're usually big errors (like his failed clearance that led to a Dempsey goal). Diego Valeri is quietly having a decent season (he's among the league leaders in shots per game), but hasn't yet been able to do what he does best -- get others involved. Once that happens, watch out.
CUSA Keys to the Game
Contain Darlington Nagbe - There's a reason Nagbe is always getting hacked. The speedy, dynamic left midfielder can be a headache for defenders who fail to keep up with his elusive style of play. Not much of a crosser, he tends to work his way inside via a series of short passes, dribbles, layoffs, and just good general technique on the ball. Chivas needs to be careful about doubling as that open space for others and needs to address last week's issue of leaving players unmarked on the weak side. Eric Avila and Eriq Zavaleta (or Bobby Burling, or Andrew Jean-Baptiste, who knows) will need to be ready.
Attack their left side - Nagbe and Michael Harrington are excellent resources for the attack and the majority of the time Portland is moving the ball up on that side of the field. Due to playing so high and being the defensive weak side of the field, opponents have found some success focusing their attack on the left.
Watch the Hole - Chara continued Portland's good streak at finding long shot opportunities and his brace against Seattle was proof. If players are brought into the hole and allowed space, Timbers combo passes can and will become a burden. Chivas' awareness and communication in the defensive midfield has to be on point this Saturday.
First Goal Wins (or Ties) - I'm not a fan of predictions but I have a good feeling that whoever scores first in this one will at the very least come out with a tie. Hear that, Goats? Let's hope they continue Portland's streak of being unable to score first and frustrate them enough to feel the pressure to produce at home. The more pressure, the better the chance to capitalize on mistakes.
It's an unlikely but I don't wanna hear Timber Joey's chainsaw at all this weekend.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!