Competition: Major League Soccer – Columbus Crew vs. Portland Timbers
Venue: MAPFRE Stadium – Saturday, March 25 – 19:30 ET (23:30 GMT)
Match Odds: Columbus 21/20 – Draw 5/2 – Portland 23/10
Columbus Crew welcome Portland Timbers to MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday night for the first time since the 2015 MLS Cup Final in which the visitors left Ohio with the title.
The Crew will be out for revenge this time around as they look to make it back-to-back wins after getting off the mark for the season in last weekend’s 2-0 victory over DC United.
Gregg Berhalter used three at the back in that win and he is likely to stick with the system in the hope the wing-backs can keep Portland pinned back in their own half.
On paper, this is set to be a really tough game for the Crew but the Timbers have a number of key absentees, giving the hosts a great chance of picking up three important points in front of their own fans.
Portland have looked unstoppable going forward through the first three weeks of the season, winning all three games to start the season and scoring 10 goals in the process.
They have bounced back well after a disappointing campaign last year and Caleb Porter will be aiming at winning another MLS Cup title come December. There’s a long way to go but the Timbers have everything in place to go and challenge across the board this season.
They will have to try and get the job done this weekend without Darlington Nagbe and David Guzman, who are both away on international duty, while center-back Liam Ridgewell is still out due to injury.
That leaves the away side significantly weaker but they still have the firepower of Fanendo Adi, Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco and that trio will look to hurt Columbus, especially if they opt to go with a three-man defence again.
These sides met once last season at Providence Park back on the opening day of the campaign with Portland winning 2-1. The Timbers have now won three-straight games against the Crew, including that MLS Cup final victory.
Columbus remain without Gaston Sauro, who is ruled out for the season, as well as Dilly Duka who is struggling with a calf contusion. Waylon Francis is a doubt once again and Jukka Raitala is away on international duty with Finland.
Portland will travel to Columbus without Darlington Nagbe and David Guzman, who are both away on international duty, while Liam Ridgewell is still out and Gbenga Arokoyo is sidelined for the season. Vytas is a doubt but could start at left-back if passed fit in time.
Columbus Crew’s form: D/L/W
Portland Timbers’ form: W/W/W
Key Stat: The Timbers have won three-straight games against the Crew and have not lost to their opponents since July 2013.
Key Player: Diego Valeri – Despite the absences of some key men, Portland still have their star man available and in red hot form. Valeri has started the season with four goals and two assists and is looking dangerous everytime he gets on the ball. If Columbus fail to contain him, they could be in for a long evening.
Columbus Crew 2-2 Portland Timbers – Goals are expected here between two sides that will believe they can get all three points on Saturday night. Columbus are the home side and looking to make it back-to-back wins. They should take advantage of some key absences for Portland but will likely struggle to contain the likes of Valeri and Adi in what should be an open and exciting game. Score draw.