On Saturday evening, Philadelphia Union starts an arduous three-game road trip with a match against Portland Timbers at Providence Park. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM EST (TV:The Comcast Network, Root Sports Northwest and streamed via MLS LIVE). In last year’s matchup, Philadelphia put together a comprehensive win, 3-0, in front of their home crowd in Chester, Pennsylvania.
Points at a premium as season rapidly comes to close
Both teams are in great need for points as the season starts to come to a close.
Coming into Saturday’s matchup, Philadelphia occupies fourth place with 41 points through 29 games. The MLS Eastern Conference’s first through fourth-placed team are separately only by five points, with two through four only separated by three points. This is not to mention that fifth place, Montreal Impact, is three points behind Philadelphia with a game in hand as well.
Speaking of Montreal, in their last match, Philadelphia conceded late to the Impact and ended up settling for a 1-1 draw at Talen Energy Stadium last Saturday. It was a key game for the Union to try to build a cushion between them and the Impact for fourth place, but Jim Curtin’s side was unable to close the game out for all three points.
The home team in this matchup and reigning MLS Cup Champions, Portland, sit in the dangerous territory of the dreaded red line in the MLS Western Conference. Through 29 games this season, Portland has earned 38 points through 29 games, which puts them in sixth place. Right now, Caleb Porter’s side is only one point from fifth place and has a four point cushion on seventh place Vancouver Whitecaps.
In their last matchup, Portland took all three points against Real Salt Lake, 1-0, last Saturday at Providence Park to bolster their playoff positioning. On Wednesday, the Timbers fell to Deportivo Saprissa, 4-2, in 2016-2017 CONCACAF Champions League Play. In their loss Wednesday, Porter’s side was nearly a full strength squad as it featured top- five MLS goalscorer, Fanendo Adi.
Saturday’s match will be Portland third in nearly seven days. Keep an eye on how Porter decides, if at all, to rotate his squad to try to earn all three points.
Matchups to watch
Philadelphia will likely have Brian Carroll back from injury, which will help bolster the defense. He will possibly have the tall task of trying to shadow and mark Portland midfielder Diego Valeri. Valeri is easily one of the most dangerous Central Attacking Midfielders in Major League Soccer and needs to be contained as he can hurt the Union with his passing as well as his prowess in front of the net.
Another key matchup to watch will be Darlington Nagbe lining up opposite of Fabinho. Nagbe is an extremely talented player and Fabinho will certainly have his hands full. Keep an eye on how Curtin’s double pivot players such as Alejandro Bedoya or Carroll as well as the winger, likely Chris Pontius, try to help out with this matchup.