Carl's Keys to the Game vs. Portland Timbers

The legend talks about playing in Portland

Fast start

Preview: Whitecaps FC prepare for Cascadia clash

This is not only a rivalry game, but a game both teams need to win to turn the momentum around in a tight Western Conference. Our ‘Caps have lost their last two games, while the Timbers have suffered two losses in their last four – scoring only three goals in the month of July.

As always, there is a lot on the line and there is sure to be some nerves heading into this match so getting off to a fast start and getting into the game quickly will give our boys a lift playing in a hostile environment.

Portland is a team that thrives on pressuring the opposition and getting their crowd behind them. If we can turn the tables and put them under pressure early it will cause some doubt in their minds, as they are on a bit of a shaky run. It will also take the crowd out of it a little and put us on the front foot. Much like the ‘Caps, Portland has been very good at home – losing only once – and we definitely do not want to be chasing the game by coming out of the gates slow.

Johnson and Nagbe

Nagbe finds the back of the net versus San Jose

Johnson and Nagbe sounds like the name of a law firm, but the fact is they are Portland’s joint leading scorers with six goals apiece and are very key players for the second-place Timbers.  
Will Johnson, a box-to-box midfielder, drives the Timbers with his all-action style game and is having an MVP type season. He is an agitator who can get under a player’s skin, his range of passing creates good opportunities for his teammates, and he makes dangerous runs into the box as he looks to get on the end of crosses.

Darlington Nagbe, meanwhile, is a player with blazing speed. He likes to run at defenders and has a knack for scoring spectacular goals. He can be out of the game for long periods of the game and then make something out of nothing to give his team a lift.

Keeping these two players quiet will go a long way in helping the ‘Caps get a positive result.

Big-time goalkeeping

Brad Knighton comes up big against Seattle

As with any derby match, there is no doubt that Portland – being the home team – will throw everything at us.

The Timbers have a lot of offensive weapons and are very dynamic going forward, but our ‘Caps have looked very solid defensively of late and will need to continue that trend on Saturday.

I feel whoever is in goal will have to play big for us. I don’t think they will have to come up with a number of stops, but rather a big save at a key moment.

Being on the road, you expect to be under pressure in large parts of the match and we will have to be resolute in our defending and have our keeper help us out with at least one big-time save.