Scouting report: A closer look at Cascadia Cup rivals Portland Timbers
There will be 500 Vancouver Whitecaps FC fans travelling to Portland to watch our 'Caps take on the Timbers. Can they be hopeful of a joyous trip?
Well, if they look at Whitecaps FC's last away game against D.C. United, it looks grim reading. But if they remember the last Cascadia Cup game versus Sounders FC in Seattle (a 2-2 draw), it should lift everybody’s spirit. After all, this is a rivalry match, where usually current form goes out of the window.
Whitecaps FC are coming off a terrible result against D.C. United on the road, while the Timbers lost on the weekend at Houston Dynamo (2-1) and on Wednesday at Sporting Kansas City (3-1), so both clubs are in need of a confidence booster.
A rivalry is just what the doctor ordered. When the 'Caps visited Seattle to play Sounders FC in front of a packed house, they put on what I believe to be their best performance on the road against one of the top teams in Major League Soccer, and but for a bad five-minute spell which cost them two goals, it could have been a famous victory.
Portland have given up the second most goals at home in MLS (18) and also scored the second most goals at home (23). As our 'Caps will be looking to rebound from a very disappointing performance last weekend, I expect them to take the game to Portland, as they did to Sounders FC in the first half of that game on June 11. This should make for a very exciting and entertaining match, as a draw is no good to either side, and a loss is unthinkable.
Timbers head coach John Spencer has put together a youthful side that is quick, likes to attack, and is very hardworking. For most of the season, he has employed a 4-4-2 formation, they did tinker a little with 4-5-1 to stabilize the defence, but quickly went back to their favoured attacking 4-4-2. When it all clicks together, it can produce devastating results, as witnessed by the 3-0 thrashing of LA Galaxy in their last home game.
Their two fullbacks, Mike Chabala and Rodney Wallace, love to get forward at every opportunity and they can put in useful crosses, but that does leave them exposed at the back sometimes. In midfield, they have players that work from box-to-box, so our 'Caps will have to match them, especially Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury, who is having a stellar season so far. Darlington Nagbe supplies the pace on the wings for the Timbers and is a threat from long distance, as was seen some weeks ago when scored the second best goal of the season behind Eric Hassli's magical strike in Seattle.
Up front, Kenny Cooper is back in favour in Portland and is striking up a great partnership with Colombian forward Jorge Perlaza. Cooper is the target man, who plays very well with his back to goal and holds the ball up well when knocked into him, while Jorge is the forward that plays off Cooper and often makes runs to try and get in behind the opposition's defence.
Against Sounders FC, our 'Caps were lifted by the sell-out crowd at Centurylink Field, and I am hoping it will be more of the same at a very intimidating JELD-WEN Field. They will have to want it more than the Timbers and be ready to battle for 90 minutes.