MLS Preview and Prediction: Real Salt Lake vs Portland Timbers

Major League Soccer: Real Salt Lake vs Portland Timbers

Rio Tinto Stadium – Saturday, September 16 – 21:30 ET (02:30 BST)

Match Odds: Real Salt Lake 19/20 – Draw 13/5 – Portland 5/2

Real Salt Lake vs Portland Timbers: Preview

Real Salt Lake host Portland Timbers on Saturday night in what is a big game at a crucial stage of the season for both clubs. RSL come into the weekend looking to keep their hopes of a top-six finish alive. While Portland will be hoping to stay joint-top of the West with Vancouver beyond the weekend.

The hosts come into the game off the back of last weekend’s 3-2 loss at Vancouver. The result moved the Whitecaps ahead of Portland at the top of the West and ended RSL’s two-game win streak.

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The good news for Real Salt Lake and Mike Petke is that they are returning home this weekend. They have one two-straight game in front of their own fans, beating San Jose 4-0 and Colorado 4-1. If they can get a third-straight home win on Saturday, there’s a good chance they’ll move into the top six.

However, Portland arrive in good form after beating New York City FC 1-0 at Yankee Stadium last weekend. That result stretcher their unbeaten run to four, with the Timbers picking up 10 points from 12 in that time.

Caleb Porter’s side endured a tough summer but they’ve bounced back over the past couple of months and are now looking poised for a strong playoff run. They will be hoping to secure a top-two finish to earn a first-round bye.

Saturday’s game will be the 19th MLS clash between Portland and Real Salt Lake. The Timbers have only lost one of their last nine games against RSL. However, that defeat took place earlier this season when Real Salt Lake picked up a 4-1 win after Portland received two red cards in the second half.

Real Salt Lake vs Portland Timbers: Team News

Real Salt Lake have four players ruled out through injury. Chad Barrett, Jordan Allen, Omar Holness and Ricardo Velazco are all sidelined. Demar Phillips and Marcelo Silva are doubts with hamstring problems. Chris Schuler and Sunny are one booking away from suspension and will need to be careful.

Portland Timbers will be without combative midfielder Diego Chara as he has picked up a suspension as a result of yellow card accumulation. Sebastian Blanco is one booking away from suspension.

Real Salt Lake vs Portland Timbers: Key Points

Real Salt Lake’s last five: W/L/W/W/L

Portland Timbers’ last five: L/W/W/D/W

Key Stat: Real Salt Lake are unbeaten in five consecutive home games in MLS and have scored four goals in their last two at Rio Tinto.

Key Player: Diego Valeri – The Portland Timbers playmaker is enjoying a phenomenal campaign. He has scored in seven consecutive games and is a genuine MVP candidate. He will set an MLS record if he nets for an eighth-straight game on Saturday. But he will need to end an 11-game drought against RSL to do so.

Real Salt Lake vs Portland Timbers: Prediction

Real Salt Lake 2-2 Portland Timbers – Goals are to be expected on Saturday in what should be an open game. Real Salt Lake know they must avoid defeat to keep their playoff hopes alive at this pivotal stage of the season. For Portland, it’s about maintaining their strong form as the playoffs edge closer. They are still in the race for the lead at the top of the Western Conference too and so both will be out for all three points. However, that could lead to the two sides cancelling each other out. Last season’s clash at Rio Tinto ended 2-2 and we expect the same scoreline here.

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Gallery: Seattle Sounders 1-1 Portland Timbers – Exclusive photos

Seattle Sounders 1-1 Portland Timbers – MLS Rivalry Week was rounded off by an ever-dramatic Cascadia Cup clash between two of the league’s fiercest rivals. There weren’t an abundance of goals but there was no shortage of talking points.

The Sounders took the lead in the 18th minute, with Cristian Roldan knocking a scrappy goal in after after a goalmouth scramble inside the six-yard box. The home fans didn’t care that it wasn’t pretty. They were on top.

But Portland didn’t give up, despite the fact they’ve still never won at CenturyLink Field in MLS. They pressed for an equaliser and were rewarded on the stroke of halftime.

Diego Valeri’s fine pass to Darren Mattocks resulted in the forward being brought down. Mark Geiger pointed to the spot and Valeri made no mistake, tying the game at 1-1.

That was how it would end. Both sides pressed for a potential winner but to no avail. Nouhou Tolo was sent off in the dying seconds for Seattle after raising his hands to the face of Diego Chara.

The two rivals end MLS Rivalry Week in first and second in the West. Seattle are top on 42 points, with Portland one behind on 41. However, both sides have played more games than Sporting KC, Vancouver and Houston, who are all chasing.

Check out exclusive photos from Sunday’s game below, courtesy of MLSGB photographers Denise McCooey and Paul Kahl.

Seattle Sounders 1-1 Portland Timbers – Exclusive photos:

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Gallery: Exclusive photos from Portland’s 2-1 win over Vancouver

Portland Timbers returned to winning ways against Cascadia rivals Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, winning 2-1 thanks to goals from Darlington Nagbe and former Vancouver striker Darren Mattocks.

Nagbe opened the scoring with a thundering strike that went in off the crossbar, leaving David Ousted no chance. Mattocks then doubled the lead before halftime, turning in a Diego Valeri cross to prove that he can be an adequate replacement for Fanendo Adi, who missed out through suspension.

Vancouver battled back to score just before the hour-mark, with Fredy Montero tapping in from the rebound after watching Jeff Attinella save his penalty.

The Whitecaps remain winless away from home, having lost all three road trips this term and now have to prepare for three more on the spin before returning to BC Place in a month.

Portland still top the Western Conference and the Supporters’ Shield standings after picking up 16 points through their first eight games.

Check out exclusive photos from Saturday’s Cascadia Cup rivalry clash at Providence Park, courtesy of MLSGB photographer, Denise McCooey.

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MLS Preview and Prediction: Portland Timbers vs Vancouver Whitecaps

Competition: Major League Soccer – Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
Venue: Providence Park – Saturday, April 22 – 16:00 ET (21:00 BST) 
Match Odds: Portland 7/10 – Draw 11/4 – Vancouver 7/2

Match Preview

Portland Timbers face Cascadia rivals Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday evening, with the visitors looking for their first away points of the season against their Western opponents.

The Timbers suffered their first home loss of the season and first in nine at Providence Park last time out so the big question is whether they can now bounce back with victory on Saturday.

Caleb Porter’s men still lead the West, as well as the Supporters’ Shield standings, coming into the weekend but they have only won one of their last four and need to pick back up to avoid falling away.

The Portland attack is one of the most dangerous is Major League Soccer but they will be without Fanendo Adi on Saturday after he picked up a one-match suspension. Even without Adi, the Whitecaps defence is not likely to keep them out if they’re on song.

Vancouver got a an important win under their belt last week, edging past Seattle Sounders 2-1 at BC Place in the first Cascadia Cup clash of the 2017 season.

They will need to be ready for another battle if they are to leave Providence Park with anything on Saturday and will be concerned by the fact they’ve conceded six goals in their two road trips so far this season.

Carl Robinson’s men can move three points behind Portland with a win on Saturday, which would provide a major boost for the club after a rough start to the campaign. But a defeat would still leave them with plenty of questions to answer.

These sides met three times last season. The home team was victorious in each meeting, with Vancouver winning two of those contests. There were 14 goals in the three clashes, so another entertaining game is expected on Saturday.

Team News

Portland have been dealt a major blow as Fanendo Adi has been handed a one-game suspension by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for an elbow on Ike Opara in last week’s loss. Gbenga Arokoyo is out for the season, while Ben Zemanski is also out. Liam Ridgewell is listed as ‘questionable’ and isn’t likely to return to action this week.

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Vancouver still have six players out injured as Brett Levis, Yordy Reyna, David Edgar, Erik Hurtado, Brek Shea and Marco Bustos are all sidelined.

Key Points

Portland Timbers’ form: W/L/D/W/L

Vancouver Whitecaps’ form: L/L/W/L/W

Key Stat: Portland have only won one of the last six regular season meetings between the two sides, with Vancouver taking three victories in that time and outscoring the Timbers 11-8.

Key Player: Diego Valeri – Portland’s star man is still one of, if not the best, playmakers in MLS. He has seven goals and three assists in seven games so far this season and will expect to unlock a leaky Vancouver defence even without Fanendo Adi to supply this weekend.

Score Prediction

Portland Timbers 2-1 Vancouver Whitecaps – It’s difficult to see Portland blowing the Whitecaps away without the suspended Adi this weekend, although they will still expect to take three points from a side that are struggling on the road. Vancouver will be able to cause the Timbers problems but the hosts look poised to bounce back from last week’s defeat with an important victory over their rivals here.

MLS Preview and Prediction: LA Galaxy vs Portland Timbers

Competition: Major League Soccer – LA Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers
Venue: StubHub Center – Sunday, March 12 – 19:00 ET (23:00 GMT)
Match Odds: LA Galaxy 19/20 – Draw 12/5 – Portland 13/5

Match Preview

LA Galaxy host the Portland Timbers in a key early-season Western Conference clash on Sunday night, with Portland looking to put down a marker against a Galaxy side that struggled in last weekend’s home tie with Dallas.

LA knew this would be a transitional season, with new head coach Curt Onalfo tasked with getting a tune out of a new-look Galaxy side that has lost a sense of stardom this winter.

Their opening day defeat to Dallas last Saturday might have sent a message out to the rest of the West, but a second-straight home defeat to a Western rival would undoubtedly leave the alarm bells ringing.

Portland blew Minnesota away in the season opening game at Providence Park last Friday, with Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi both grabbing braces in a commanding performance.

The Timbers fell way short of expectations as MLS Cup holders last season but looked to have the bit between their teeth in last week’s contest. Another strong attacking performance from them would no doubt have teams worried across the league.

There’s a strong chance this game will be completely won in midfield. Sure, you can say that for a lot of games, but Portland’s new addition David Guzman stood out as one of the key players in the heart of the team’s midfield on opening weekend. Add in the fact that Jermaine Jones has picked up a suspension – along with Dave Romney – and it’s clear to see the home side are up against it if they want to prove that StubHub is still a fortress.

These two sides met twice in MLS last season, drawing 1-1 at StubHub before the Galaxy won in Portland in July. LA also knocked the Timbers out of the US Open Cup, with a 1-0 win at Providence Park in the Round of 16 last June.

Team News

LA Galaxy have been handed a double blow this week as Jermaine Jones and Dave Romney have been handed suspensions from the MLS Disciplinary Committee for tackles made in last week’s loss to Dallas. Robbie Rogers, Ashley Cole and Gyasi Zardes are all still injured too, so Onalfo is going to have to test his squad depth as early as Week 2 here.

Portland have lost left-back Vytas to an injury picked up in training this week, while fellow defenders Liam Ridgewell and Alvas Powell are both also struggling with knocks and are listed as ‘questionable’. Gbenga Arokoyo is out for the season.

Key Points

LA Galaxy’s form: L

Portland Timbers’ form: W

Key Stat: Flurry – There have been an average of 3.4 goals-per-game in the previous 16 MLS meetings between these two sides.

Key Player: Diego Valeri – The Timbers playmaker got off to a perfect start last weekend, scoring two and assisting one in the 2017 MLS season opener against Minnesota – earning him the Week 1 Player of the Week award. He will be looking to unlock a Galaxy defence that is missing both first-team fullbacks for the second successive week.

Score Prediction

LA Galaxy 1-3 Portland Timbers – The days of the Galaxy dominating the Western Conference look to be gone – for now at least – and Portland look set to pile more misery on the home side with victory on Sunday night. Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri will cause the Galaxy backline a ton of problems if they can get in behind, while LA looked flat-footed for large parts against Dallas last weekend and showed little to suggest they can beat a side as talented as Portland.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Portland Timbers vs LA Galaxy

Competition: Major League Soccer – Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy

Stadium: Providence Park – Saturday, July 23 – 15:30 ET (20:30 BST)

Match Odds: Portland 13/10 – Draw 23/10 – LA Galaxy 21/10

Match Preview

Portland Timbers face LA Galaxy in one of the weekend’s standout MLS fixtures on Saturday evening as two of the league’s in-form sides go head-to-head at Providence Park.

Portland have been in solid form of late, going unbeaten in nine games. They saw off their arch rivals Seattle on Sunday and will be in fine spirits off the back of that result.

The Timbers enter the match in sixth place in the West and will be looking to remain unbeaten to keep their playoff hopes intact, with 12 games left to play after the weekend.

Portland Timbers vs Seattle Sounders - Portland Celebrate

They have won four of their last five at home and will look to put a strong LA Galaxy side to the sword here as they look to continue climbing the table.

However, the Galaxy are a side high in confidence and won’t be expecting to leave Portland empty-handed come the end of play on Saturday.

Bruce Arena’s men have won three in a row and are making a real charge at the title. They are eight points behind league leaders Dallas and know they must win as many games as possible to stand a chance of finishing in front of the Texans.

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Winning games away from home has proven tough for LA over the last two seasons, but they did beat Seattle 1-0 on the road two weeks ago and will be hoping for another successful trip to the north-west here.

This will be the second clash between the pair this term. The reverse fixture ended 1-1 at StubHub Center back in April. The Galaxy have not won in Portland in four years.

Team News

Portland have just the one injury concern to worry about heading into the weekend as Darren Mattocks is ruled out with a hamstring injury. Caleb Porter has had to put up with a lot of injuries this term but his squad is looking healthy at a key part of the campaign. Alvas Powell is one booking away from suspension and needs to watch his step.

LA Galaxy will remain without Robbie Rogers for this one, while Ashley Cole is also unlikely to be available for selection again after sitting out with a hamstring problem for a couple of weeks. Ariel Lassiter is a doubt and Steven Gerrard may also miss this one after failing to train outside this week.

Key Points

Portland Timbers’ form: W/D/D/D/W

LA Galaxy’s form: D/D/W/W/W

Key Stat: Form – Portland are unbeaten in their last nine MLS matches (W4 D5).

Key Player: Diego Valeri – Portland will need their star players to be at their best if they are to get past a strong LA side on Saturday. They will look to Valeri for inspiration yet again. He bagged two goals in the win over Seattle last time out and will hope to build on that with another fine performance here.

Portland Timbers vs Seattle Sounders - Valeri Celebrates

Score Prediction

Portland Timbers 2-2 LA Galaxy – Goals are expected on Saturday in a game between two in-form sides looking to keep momentum building as the playoff edge ever closer. LA have won three on the spin but may find it tough to break down a Portland side that hasn’t lost in two months. A score draw looks likely, though this should be entertaining.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Portland Timbers

Competition: Major League Soccer – Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Portland Timbers

Venue: BC Place – Saturday, May 7 – 17:00 ET (22:00 BST) 

Match Odds: Vancouver 13/10 – Draw 12/5 – Portland 2/1

Match Preview

Vancouver Whitecaps welcome Portland Timbers to BC Place in their first Cascadia Cup rivalry game of the year, with both sides desperately looking to climb the Western Conference.

Vancouver have failed to build on an excellent campaign from last term so far and come into the weekend in eighth place in the West, just a point behind Portland in seventh.

The Whitecaps have only won one of their last six and are really struggling to build any momentum at this stage of the season. Last week’s 3-2 loss to NYCFC was their fifth loss of the campaign and things need to improve quickly.

Seattle Sounders vs Vancouver Whitecaps 2016

Taking three points from fierce rivals Portland this weekend would give them a major boost but that will be no easy task.

Portland looked to be really struggling until going three games unbeaten, picking up seven points from a possible nine over the last two weeks.

They are still five points off Western Conference leaders Colorado at this stage but Caleb Porter will be delighted that his side are now starting to find some form.

The 2015 MLS Cup Champions have yet to win a game away from home, so doing so against the Whitecaps this weekend would further lift spirits.

LA Galaxy vs Portland Timbers

These two rivals met in the playoffs last term, with Portland advancing 2-0 on aggregate over two legs. The Timbers won 2-0 at BC Place in the second leg but did lose 2-1 at the same stadium in the only regular season meeting last year.

This will be the season’s second Cascadia Cup clash of the season. Vancouver beat Seattle 2-1 in the first battle of the term and are looking to win the northwest rivalry series for the third time in four years.

Team News

Vancouver won’t be able to call on the services of tricky winger Kekuta Manneh as he will serve a one-game suspension handed to him by the MLS Disciplinary Committee. Octavio Rivero is a doubt for this one, while Christian Dean and Deybi Flores are definitely out.

Portland will be without three defensive players once again as Alvas Powell, Adam Kwarasey and Andy Thoma all remain injured. However, Liam Ridgewell returned from injury last week, giving Caleb Porter a huge boost. Darren Mattocks will hope to start against his former side in attack.

Key Points

Vancouver Whitecaps’ last five: L/L/W/D/L

Portland Timbers’ last five: D/L/W/D/W

Key Stat: Vancouver have only won one of their last seven home games against Portland (D2 L4).

Key Player: Diego Valeri – The Timbers playmaker returned from suspension to score the winning goal in last week’s win over Toronto. He can turn a game in a flash with his sublime vision in the final third and will look to hurt a Whitecaps defence that is conceding an average of 1.5 goals per game.

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Score Prediction

Vancouver Whitecaps 1-1 Portland Timbers – There is little to choose between these two coming into the weekend and another tight game looks to be on the cards. Vancouver are struggling for form but are unbeaten in four at home, while Portland have yet to win away but have picked up form in their last three outings. A low-scoring draw looks likely but that will do little to help either side’s hopes of climbing the table.

MLS Fantasy Focus: Time to invest in Crew attackers for Week 7?

By Jamie Dawe and Sam Martin

Double delirium for the Rapids in Week 6, alongside a duo of poor performances for the Red Bulls made last week a complete reversal of form from the 2015 season. However, FC Dallas have stayed true to last season’s form and top the Supporters’ Shield rankings with 17 points from 8 games, six of which were gained in Week 6 with comfortable wins over SKC and the Timbers. A first goal for Seattle’s Jordan Morris ($8.1) could signal the start of things to come from this much-hyped youngster. Overall, Week 6 was a positive one, with plenty of things to build upon in the coming weeks of the campaign.

Week 6 Review

The Good:

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Only six minutes into his MLS return for Montreal, Didier Drogba’s ($11.5) cheeky back heel leveled the score up at 1-1, as Montreal went on to earn three huge points away to Chicago. Impact teammate Ignacio Piatti ($10.6) netted a stunning 90th-minute winner with a curled effort from the edge of the box in a game dominated by Montreal. Meanwhile, the Sounders’ revival continues as Seattle beat Philadelphia 2-1 with defender Chad Marshall ($8.6) heading home from a corner to score for the second consecutive week. While it may have been a disappointing defeat for New York City, World Cup winning forward ‘El Guaje’, David Villa ($11.3) netted a brace – his third and fourth goals of the season. An emphatic victory for LA Galaxy was was started and continued by a Giovani Dos Santos ($10.9) double, with the Galaxy running away as 4-1 winners in Houston. Portland’s Fanendo Adi ($10.2) also continued his fine form, netting his second brace of the campaign against San Jose. Michael Barrios ($8.1) netted in both of Dallas’ games, which leaves the Western Conference leaders on a six-game unbeaten run. On the theme of unbeaten runs, Real Salt Lake remain the only MLS side yet to lose a league match this season. Juan Manuel Martinez ($8.5) netted early in the second half to make it consecutive 1-0 victories. How long can this incredible run continue for RSL?

The Bad:

Seattle Sounders vs Philadelphia Union Red Card Alberg

Philadelphia midfielder Roland Alberg ($8.1) picked up two yellow cards within 53 minutes of his side’s 2-1 defeat to Seattle. Columbus Crew’s Tyson Wahl ($6.0) conceded a penalty that teammate Michael Parkhurst then saw red for in a case of mistaken identity in his side’s eventual win over NYCFC. Wahl has since been handed the suspension that Parkhurst was wrongly given. Portland’s Diego Valeri ($10.3) also saw red in the dying moments of Portland’s 3-1 triumph, picking up a 90th minute yellow and 95th minute red card. The Red Bulls made it six defeats from seven as the star club from the 2015 season are being let down by key attacking players such as Bradley Wright-Phillips ($10.5), Lloyd Sam ($8.9) and Mike Grella ($7.8), with the team having only netted five goals from their seven matches so far. A club with such high expectations will be expecting to push on sooner rather than later. Houston Dynamo dropped to the bottom of the Western Conference after being outclassed by LA Galaxy, despite taking the lead within the first minute. The Dynamo have only managed one win so far this campaign (admittedly it was a resounding 5-0 romp against Dallas, with this being Dallas’ only defeat). It summarises the thrilling unpredictability of the league!

Week 7 Preview

Must Buy:

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With Columbus finally returning to form in their victory over NYCFC, now’s the time to stock up on their star players. When Kei Kamara ($10.9), Ethan Finlay ($10.7) and Federico Higuain ($10.3) are firing on all cylinders, they are an unbeatable side. Looking ahead to upcoming DGW’s, adding some SKC players would certainly seem wise. Nuno Coelho ($8.3) is quickly building a name for himself in Kansas City, along with their only two other ever-present starters, goalkeeper Tim Melia ($5.7) and French fullback Amadou Dia ($6.0).

Must Sell:

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Chicago Fire only play once in the next three weeks, so budget-hogging players like David Accam ($9.2) and Kennedy Igboananike ($8.1) need to be discarded for now. Portland are relying incredibly heavily on Adi and the now suspended Valeri, and won’t play in Week 7. Even when they do return to action, it might be worth transferring out Lucas Melano ($8.7), who is extremely pricy for a player that’s yet to really shine. Injuries to Marco Pappa ($8.2), Matt Hedges ($9.0) and Alvas Powell ($7.1) mean these three players will be dead weight for at least the next two or three game weeks and replacements should be brought in.

Who will you be transferring in for Week 7?

MLS Preview and Prediction: Portland Timbers vs Columbus Crew

Competition: Major League Soccer – Portland Timbers vs. Columbus Crew

Venue: Providence Park – Sunday, March 6 – 16:30 ET (21:30 GMT – Live on Sky Sports 1) 

Match Odds: Portland 23/20 – Draw 23/10 – Columbus 12/5

Match Preview

Portland Timbers host Columbus Crew in a repeat of the 2015 MLS Cup Final on Sunday night as the 2016 MLS Season springs into life in style.

Portland enter the new campaign as MLS Cup holders for the first time and now need to cope with that pressure against the side they beat 2-1 at MAPFRE Stadium in December.

Caleb Porter insists the team are preparing for this game as they do every other, but there is no question that bigger things are expected of the Timbers coming into 2016 than in any previous year.

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They had a mixed preseason run, winning three of their eight games, but will need to improve on the back-to-back defeats that brought their preparations to a close.

Columbus didn’t win a game in any of their three preseason friendlies but will be out for revenge at Providence Park on Sunday, with the cup final defeat still at the very front of players’ minds.

Gregg Berhalter has not made many changes to the squad over the offseason and that should help the Crew maintain the same playing style from the outset here.

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It will be intriguing to see how Kei Kamara performs after enjoying an incredible return to MLS last year. Finding the net in his first game would certainly set the tone for what could, and should be another good year for the Crew. He has just penned a new contract making him a Designated Player and will hope to deliver straight away.

Both sides are expected to be challenging at the top end of the Supporters’ Shield standings come the end of the regular season and so getting off to a good start will be important.

Team News

Portland are sweating over the fitness of defender Liam Ridgewell and winger Dairon Asprilla. Ridgewell has a tight calf but should be fit, though Asprilla might have to miss the opener with an ankle sprain. Other than that, Caleb Porter has a full squad available. New signing and former Crew man Chris Klute should start at left-back.

Columbus boss Gregg Berhalter has no injury concerns heading into the season opener and will be able to pick his strongest possible team as a result.

Key Points

Portland Timbers’ preseason form: L/D/W/W/D/W/L/L

Columbus Crew’s preseason form: D/D/L

Key Stat: Columbus have yet to win away at Portland in MLS (D2 L1).

Key Player: Diego Valeri – The Portland playmaker scored inside a minute when these sides met in last year’s MLS Cup Final. He will look to hurt Columbus yet again and is always a threat with his exceptional passing range.

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Score Prediction

Portland Timbers 1-1 Columbus Crew – This is expected to be a tight battle between two sides desperate to avoid defeat on the opening day of the new season. Portland are the reigning champions but will need to handle the pressure of being favourites, rather than underdogs now. Columbus will be out for revenge but have yet to win in Portland and would do very well to leave with three points on Sunday.

2016 MLS Season Preview: Portland Timbers

As the 2016 MLS season edges closer, we’ll be publishing each team’s MLS 2016 Season Preview. Today we take a look at what reigning champions Portland Timbers will be hoping to achieve this season.

The 2015 season will be one Portland fans will treasure forever more. The Timbers managed to exceed all expectations by lifting the MLS Cup title in what was just their fifth season in Major League Soccer. Caleb Porter deserves great credit for the job he has done in Portland, and his attacking team fully deserved their success last term. The big question will now be: Can they do it again? Well, it’s certainly going to be tricky, but the Timbers still have a talented squad, a great coach and some of, if not the most passionate fans in MLS. Roll on 2016…

Last season’s finish:

Western Conference – Position: 3rd – P34 – W15 – D8 – L11

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What needs to change this year?

Despite their incredible success at the end of the season, the Timbers have a couple of areas they need to look at from their regular season displays. Firstly, their home form was not good enough for a team with such a noisy and passionate fanbase. The club only won eight of their 17 home matches during the regular season, ranking just 12th for points acquired at home, and need to make Providence Park more of a fortress in 2016. They could also do with scoring more goals. That seems a strange suggestion based on the quality of their attacking players, but Portland scored the third-fewest goals in MLS last time out and will want to alleviate some of the pressure on their defence by scoring more regularly this year.

Key changes to squad:

Ins: Chris Klute – Defender, Zarek Valentin – Defender, Ned Grabavoy – Midfielder, Jack McInerney – Forward & Jermaine Taylor – Defender

Outs: Norberto Paparatto – Defender, Michael Nanchoff – Midfielder, Maximiliano Urruti – Forward, Rodney Wallace – Midfielder, Jorge Villafana – Defender, Will Johnson – Midfielder & George Fochive – Midfielder

Key Player:

Diego Valeri – Midfielder – In a team that possesses many important players, Diego Valeri stands out most as the Timbers’ key man. The playmaker can win a match on his own, either through finding the net or threading through inch-perfect passes for teammates. He ended 2015 with three goals and nine assists over the course of the regular season and playoffs, with his most important striker coming just one minute into the MLS Cup Final. He will look forward to another fine season this time around.

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One to Watch:

Lucas Melano – Forward – The 22-year-old Designated Player moved to Portland last summer and went on to score two goals with four assists in 12 starts as a Timbers player. He will be expected to be a regular in the team in 2016 and would appear set for a big season. He’s still young but has already shown Portland fans what he’s capable of, with his fine solo goal against FC Dallas booking the Timbers’ place in the MLS Cup Final.

Predicted Finish:

Western Conference – 3rd – The Timbers look in good shape for another successful season and should be able to finish in the top three of the Western Conference again. The club performed incredibly in the playoffs, and will expect to make the postseason without much difficulty. They have made a few key changes to the squad and so it’s important they try and hit the ground running as reigning champions in 2016.

What are you expecting from the Portland Timbers in 2016?