At the time of writing, Vancouver Whitecaps FC have played the Portland Timbers 99 times.
Yep, you read that right. 99 matches.
Saturday’s match will mark the 100th all-time meeting between the ‘Caps and their long time advisaries down the I-5 across NASL, APSL, USL-1 and MLS play.
Heading into this weekend’s action, the ‘Caps sit 13th in the Western Conference with four points while Portland is 12th with six points.
In this edition of ‘Know thy enemy’, we look at the early struggles of the Timbers’ offensive pieces, their defending from wide areas and much more.
Looking at the Timbers form in the opening weeks of the 2022 season, the side has found it difficult to find their attacking spark due to the absences of several of their key offensive contributors.
Despite scoring seven goals this season, only three of their attackers have scored and none of their goals have come in Portland’s lone win this season, which goes to show how much they’ve missed their key pieces.
Chilean international striker Felipe Mora, who scored Portland’s equalizing goal in the 2021 MLS Cup Final against NYCFC, has been unavailable to start the season due to a knee surgery.
Mora recorded 13 goals and four assists in 2021 for the Timbers, including playoffs, while also finishing sixth in the league for expected goals with 12.89.
Meanwhile, attacking midfielder Sebastian Blanco has proven to be one of the most dangerous threats in the league over the past six years, but he has also been working his way back from injury at the start of the year.
Blanco has appeared in every match for the Timbers so far in 2022, but only started his first match last week in the Timbers’ 3-1 home loss against LA Galaxy.
The diminutive Argentine will look to build off his productive campaign last year, as he tallied nine goals and seven assists across all competitions.
If Portland are to find success on Saturday, expect Blanco to be a key figure in their build-up play as he’ll look to pop up in open space across the final third to create more opportunities for his offensive counterparts.
ATTACKING WIDE AREAS
An area the ‘Caps could look to exploit on Saturday is the Timbers’ defending in wide areas, which has cost them plenty of points so far this season.
Through their first six matches, seven of the 11 goals Portland has conceded have come off build-ups and crosses in wide areas from opposing teams.
In fact, all three of the Galaxy’s goals from last weekend came from building their attacks in wide areas and then whipping crosses into the box (see highlights below).
Another stat to bring up surrounding Portland’s struggles from defending in wide areas has been the discipline of their fullbacks, with Claudio Bravo, Jose Carlos Van Rankin and Pablo Bonilla all accounting for Portland’s three red cards this season.
Given the ‘Caps system utilizes plenty of space in wide areas, it could be an area to take advantage of as they look to grab the three points on Saturday.
SWITCHING THE PLAY
In their 1-0 win over Sporting KC last weekend, the ‘Caps found plenty of success on the attack thanks to their decisive, cross-field switches to open up space on the opposing side of the pitch.
The Blue and White combined for a total of 36 successful long balls in the match, with midfielder Sebastian Berhalter leading the way with nine.
To find success in wide areas, switching the play will be key to opening up the Timbers backline.
Be sure to catch the historic match this Saturday, April 9 at BC Place, with kickoff set for 7 p.m. Tickets are still available at whitecapsfc.com/tickets. You can catch the match live on TSN4 (TV) and AM730 (Radio), with the radio pre-game show starting at 6 p.m. All times in PT.