Storylines: NYCFC vs Portland Timbers
The Road So Far
With heroics from Brian Fernandez, the Portland Timbers defeated FC Dallas at Providence Park 1-0. He set the MLS record for most goals from the start of his MLS career and in the coming matches, he could set the bar higher. The win pulls the Timbers out of the Western Conference basement and within four points of the seventh and final playoff spot in the West. While it wasn’t an emphatic win, the Timbers got the job done and secured three points.
NYCFC are on a roll and one of the top teams in MLS: They put the Seattle Sounders to the sword 3-0, with goals from Maxi Moralez, Jesus Medina, and Ebenezer Ofori. With the win, the Citizens are just six points off the pace in the Eastern Conference. Can the Timbers go on the road and secure three points? Or will NYCFC continue their good run of form and send the Timbers back to the west coast sans points?
What to Watch for
New York City FC (16-7-1, 29 pts)
Right now, NYCFC are on a roll: They’re unbeaten in 14 straight across all competitions. amd Domenec Torrent has his team firing on all cylinders. While they maybe sitting in fifth place, they’re not that far off the pace of the Philadelphia Union — and just 11 points off of LAFC in the race for the Supporters Shield.
While Torrent has been using a three in the back scheme, against the Seattle Sounders he rolled out a 4-3-3 that seemed to match up with well with Seattle’s 4-2-3-1. Will we see it on Sunday night? It’s possible. Torrent is known to run out a pretty consistent starting 11, though with a pretty strong line up against the Sounders on Tuesday, there could be a bit of rotation from Torrent’s squad.
One of the things the Timbers will need to look out for is NYCFC’s counterattack — strong, aggressive, and at times down the middle of the pitch. They also like going at the right side of opponents, so Villafana could have his hands full for most of the evening. Look out for them on set pieces, especially free kicks. A lot like Dallas, New York CIty FC are a possession club and don’t mind playing the ball in their own end, which forces teams to get a bit more aggressive and leaving them open for the offside trap.
Maxi Moralez leads the team in goals with six and assists with 11. He’s the playmaker of this side and has been since he got to the club two years ago. This season he’s made 14 starts, and I would be highly surprised if he’s not in the starting 11. Keep Alex Ring on your radar as well, one of the top defensive midfielders in MLS. He’s an absolute beast sitting just in front of the back four.
Portland Timbers (6-8-2, 20 pts)
The Timbers head into Yankee Stadium looking to capitalize on the win over FC Dallas. The Timbers have two matches just days apart: Sunday with NYCFC and then a semi-final US Open Cup match in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Two matches; opposite coasts. How Giovanni Savarese plays this will indicate what priority the USOC has. There has been some hand wringing here in the fanbase about this scenario.
Here’s how I look at it, Gio will roll out a pretty strong 11 against New York. And a shorter squad in LA with the cross-coast travel. Figure some of the bench players will get more of a chance midweek. Though it’s possible that Bob Bradleyin LA could field a strong squad for the USOC — I mean they are the best team in MLS, so either way they're going to give it a good go. But I digress, you can only play the match in front of you.
There’s a bit of an injury bug going around: Bill Tuiloma is still on the shelf with a hamstring injury and, according to Gio, he’s not ready to go and they don’t want to rush it. So expect Julio Cascante lining up next to Larrys Mabiala. In goal will no doubt be Steve Clark as he has seemed to have taken over the starting role. Plus, Jeff Attinella is listed as questionable for Sunday’s match with a bum shoulder. Also listed as questionable: Zarek Valentin (left thigh), Sebastian Blanco (lower right leg), and Christian Paredes.
I’m pretty confident that we’ll see Blanco and Paredes. One person not listed was Jorge Villafana,who had to come out against Dallas and was replaced by Zarek Valentin. I haven’t seen any sort of update on Jorge, so I’d say he’d be “questionable”. While there seems to be some question marks going into Sunday, I still say we’ll see a strong eleven in New York.
Sunday’s match marks the fifth meeting all-time between Portland and NYCFC, with the Timbers posting a record of 3-1-0 in the previous four matches. Portland has won consecutive games against NYCFC, registering two shutouts and multiple goals in both wins.
The Timbers are 2-0-0 all-time against NYCFC on the road, recording a 1-0 win in its last trip to Yankee Stadium on September 9, 2017. In the last match between the two sides, Portland recorded a 3-0 win at Providence Park on April 22, 2018, receiving goals from Sebastian Blanco and Larrys Mabiala.
Chara was named to the MLS Team of the Week after helping the Timbers FC register a 1-0 win at home against FC Dallas on June 30. Chara led the team with six tackles, two clearances, and an interception.