MLS Preview and Prediction: Portland Timbers vs Real Salt Lake

Competition: Major League Soccer – Portland Timbers vs Real Salt Lake

Venue: Providence Park – Saturday, March 7 – 10:30 ET (03:30 GMT – Sunday, 8)

Match Odds: Portland 6/5 – Draw 9/4 – Real Salt Lake 23/10

Match Preview

The Portland Timbers face Real Salt Lake in a key Western Conference clash in the opening weekend of the 2015 Major League Soccer season late on Saturday night.

The Timbers agonisingly missed out on the playoffs by just one point last season despite ending the year with just one defeat in their last nine.

A key reason in failing to reach the postseason was the fact that Portland failed to win in their first eight games of last season. They need to start better and will want to begin with a victory against Real Salt Lake on Saturday.

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RSL did make the playoffs last season but were eliminated by eventual champions, LA Galaxy 5-0 in the second-leg of their Western Conference semi-final.

Real Salt Lake ended the regular season unbeaten in three without conceding a goal and one of those games was a 0-0 draw at Portland.

These two sides faced each other three times last year and couldn’t be separated as they both won one each and drew that late season game at Providence Park.

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Portland and RSL only lost one game each over the course of preseason and come into the new season full of confidence, both looking to make the playoffs in a highly competitive Western Conference.

Team News

The Portland Timbers have plenty of injury worries ahead of the curtain raiser as Will Johnson (broken leg), Diego Valeri and Ben Zemanski (both torn ACL) are all definitely out for some time. Michael Nanchoff (hip), Diego Chara (calf) and Jorge Villafana (muscle tightness) are all doubts but Villafana is expected to make the game and start at left-back. New goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey should start in goal while former RSL centre-back Nat Borchers will partner Liam Ridgewell in defence.

Real Salt Lake have five injury worries of their own ahead of the clash as Joao Plata (metatarsal), John Stertzer (toe), Justen Glad (knee), Demar Phillips (hamstring) and Pecka (hip) are all set to miss out.

Key Points

Portland Timbers’ form: N/A

Real Salt Lake’s form: N/A

Key Stat: The Timbers have not beaten Real Salt Lake at home in their last five MLS meetings (P5 – D3 – L2).

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Key Player: Fanendo Adi – The Timbers’ Designated Player is starting his first full season in MLS and will likely lead the attack for Portland on Saturday night. He bagged nine goals from 18 starts last season and will be raring to go in this one.

Score Prediction

Portland Timbers 1-1 Real Salt Lake – Both sides have key players out injured and will just want to get points on board in their opening games. That could lead to another draw but both sides will likely find the net in this one.

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MLS 2015 Season Preview: Portland Timbers

The new season is now just one week away and in the build-up to the first game, we’ve had an MLS 2015 Season Preview up everyday. Today we take a look at what to expect from the Portland Timbers in 2015…

The Portland Timbers head into their fifth MLS season after joining in 2011. They looked set to be on course for a playoff finish in 2014 until the penultimate game of the season when a 0-0 draw at home to Real Salt Lake allowed the Vancouver Whitecaps to agonisingly nip in ahead of them by just one point, despite the final day victory over FC Dallas for the Timbers. Head coach Caleb Porter will be hoping he can inspire his side to perform to the same level as last year while tweaking some minor elements of the team to make them that little bit more effective.

Last season’s finish: Western Conference position: 6th – P34 – W12 – D13 – L9

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What needs to change this year?

Portland Timbers need to start the season better this time around. They didn’t record a victory until their ninth game of the season in 2014 and that left them playing catch up for the remainder of the campaign. The Timbers only managed 10 points from their opening 11 games and that hampered their progress massively.

Despite the slow start, they finished the season brilliantly with just one defeat in their final nine games, picking up five wins and three draws. If the Oregon side can carry that vein of form through to 2015 then they will have a good chance of having a successful year.

Turning some of the draws into wins at home is another important area that could be improved. Portland only managed five victories on home soil in 2014, while they played out nine draws.

Key changes to the squad:

Ins: Adam Kwarasey – Goalkeeper, Nat Borchers – Defender, Jeanderson Pereira – Defender, Dairon Asprilla – Midfielder

Outs: Donovan Ricketts – Goalkeeper, Michael Harrington – Defender, Pa Modou Kah – Defender, Rauwshan McKenzie – Defender, Danny O’Rourke – Defender, Steve Zakuani – Midfielder, Kalif Alhassan – Midfielder

Key Player: Diego Valeri – Midfielder

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Diego Valeri will miss the start of the 2015 campaign through injury and is hoping to return by May. The Timbers need to ensure they don’t feel the full force of his absence in the early stages of the season. The Argentinian playmaker scored 11 goals, made 14 assists and was the stand-out player for Portland in 2014.  He will be crucial for the Timbers as they look to mount a serious challenge for a top-six finish in the Western Conference and qualify for the playoffs.

One to watch: Fanendo AdiForward

Fanendo Adi notched an impressive nine goals from just 18 starts in 2014 and also made four assists. The big Nigerian forward could play an important role when he leads the line for the Timbers. At 6 feet 4 inches, he provides a different proposition for opposing teams compared to other forwards in this Portland squad. He’s only 24-years-old so he’s got a promising career ahead of him and if the Timbers are to challenge for the top spots, his excellent goals-per-game ratio could be crucial.

Predicted finish: Western Conference – 3rd

The Portland Timbers have only recorded one playoff finish since their participation in Major League Soccer began in 2011. However, they look in great shape to be one of the strongest sides in the Western Conference in what promises to be one of the most exciting MLS seasons to date.

What are you expecting from the Portland Timbers in 2015?

Takeaways from Portland’s overdue win against Real Salt Lake

The Portland Timbers ended an eleven-game winless run stretching back three years against Real Salt Lake by securing a 3-1 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night, making it two losses on the bounce for RSL after their unbeaten run came to an end last week. Here are our takeaways from the game:

1. If you start him, he will score.

Fanendo Adi scored his second brace since joining Portland on loan last month and the powerful striker has been excellent so far. He has now scored a brace in both of his starts and is proving to be a real handful for defenders. Caleb Porter has to keep Adi in the side from now as the 23-year-old is really putting some fine performances in.

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2. Real Salt Lake missing their stars.

After their 16-game unbeaten streak in MLS came to an end in Seattle last week, RSL would have hoped to get back to winning ways against the Timbers but they didn’t look their best once again. They are desperately missing Kyle Beckerman in midfield, and Nick Rimando is also away with the USMNT. Their key striker is also set to be out for a while as Alvaro Saborio has broken his foot while away with Costa Rica in preparation for the World Cup. They will certainly welcome the upcoming two-week break.

3. Darlington Nagbe is explosive.

Nagbe was a threat throughout, and thrived from the change of tactic that saw the Timbers counter-attack Real Salt Lake. The 23-year-old’s shot led to Adi’s goal and he drew two fouls from Tony Beltran which saw the defender sent off in a space of less than two minutes. His end product could be better but when he attacks he causes problems and the Timbers look dangerous in attack now.

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MLSGB Goal of the week – week 13

This week we had a tough choice of choosing between two wonderful goals scored during this weekend’s action but were all stunned by the quality of the goal scored by Portland Timbers captain Will Johnson in their thrilling 4-3 Cascadia Cup loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps.

San Jose’s Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi came close to taking the honour after his long range striker won the game for the Earthquakes against FC Dallas but Johnson’s goal was sublime, particularly the hold up play and assist provided by Fanendo Adi.

MLS: Key takeaways from week 13’s action

There were 34 goals scored in the 11 matches in Week 13, an average of 3.09 goals per game so it was another thoroughly entertaining week of action. Here are our key takeaways:

1. Real Salt Lake’s streak comes to an end.

Salt Lake went into their game at Seattle as the only remaining unbeaten team this season, and were on a streak of 16 in MLS games. However they were brought crashing down to earth with a 4-0 thumping at the hands of the impressive Sounders who never looked in trouble. Real Salt Lake are missing several key players, but they would not have expected to lose by four goals. They must bounce back against Columbus tonight.

2. Montreal did what?!

Montreal Impact beat the New England Revolution. Wow. What a result that is. Undoubtedly the most surprising scoreline of the weekend came in Montreal as the Impact beat the high-flying Revs 2-0. New England went into the game as clear favourites, on a win-streak of five, and were stunned by the early goal and as a result couldn’t get back into the game as Montreal picked up a huge win in front of their own fans.

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3. Cascadia Cup clashes don’t disappoint.

After last week’s dramatic four-goal game in Vancouver, few would have expected this week’s match to better it, but it did. Seattle drew 2-2 with the Whitecaps last weekend in the series, and Portland hosted Vancouver in Sunday night’s seven-goal thriller. It was a relentless game that saw spectacular goals, two penalties and near misses. The Whitecaps eventually held on to win 4-3 despite late fightback from the Timbers and they are now unbeaten in seven games. We’re already counting down to the next Cascadia Cup game on July 5 when Vancouver host Seattle again.

4. Fanendo Adi will do some damage.

Portland’s on-loan striker started his first game last Wednesday against Chivas and marked the occasion with a brace that saw the Timbers win 2-0. The big, powerful forward then came on against the Whitecaps and made a difference as they fought their way back into the game following the introduction of Adi. The assist for Will Johnson’s goal was sensational, and the strike is already a contender for goal of the season.

5. What has happened to the Champions?

Sporting Kansas City picked up just one point from a possible six in a double gameweek, and they 2013 MLS Cup winners are now without a win in five games, losing five of those. They drew 1-1 with the Red Bulls last Wednesday before losing 1-0 at DC United on Saturday night and they will need to desperately start picking up points from here on. They have been stripped of central defenders but are not performing at the other end of the pitch either and Graham Zusi’s absence is hurting them. They travel to an out of sorts Houston on Saturday night.

Three takeaways from Portland’s easy win over Chivas USA

Portland extended their unbeaten streak in MLS to six games on Wednesday night with a 2-0 win over Chivas USA, who fell to their fourth consecutive home loss. We take a look at the main talking points from the game. They are as follows:

1. Fanendo Adi shines on debut.

The 23 year-old Nigerian is on loan from FC Copenhagen in Denmark and he impressed on his debut with a well-taken brace.

With his size and pace, defenses will find it hard to stop the forward, who has plenty more on offer.

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2. Portland has many creative options.

With the Timbers being able to call on any two of four players to create in Michael Nanchoff, Diego Valeri, Gaston Fernandez and Darlington Nagbe, Portland have more than enough supply for their new striker (Adi).

We can see them mounting a very strong charge for the playoffs if they maintain their recent form.

 

3. Chivas lack firepower.

Chivas struggled once again to provide many chances in the final third. Erick Torres is leading the line and he is struggling to make enough of an impression on his own, as at only 5’11, he doesn’t have the size to command such a position.

He has scored eight goals in ten, a commendable feat given the lack of service but Chivas struggle as a team in the final third of the pitch.

Maybe a strike partner could solve this problem?

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Highlights via MLS on YouTube: