The Portland Timbers' run at the Cascadia Cup could be in peril this Saturday as they host the Vancouver Whitecaps. A win for the Whitecaps would force the Timbers to win two of their last three Cascadia Cup matches to have a chance at the cup. The Whitecaps currently sit tied for first with the Seattle Sounders in the Cascadian Cup standings; each team has a victory over the Timbers.
The Portland Timbers are coming off a heartbreaking 0-1 loss to other Cascadian rivals Seattle Sounders. Who else but Clint Dempsey scored the lone goal in the 77th minute to propel the Sounders to third in the Western Conference, one point behind the Whitecaps. The Timbers are now 8th out of 10 spots in the Western Conference, with the shadow of their 2014 season breathing down their neck.
There will likely be more lineup changes from Timbers head coach Caleb Porter. Timbers DP midfielder Diego Valeri is rumored to see his first minutes on the field since suffering an ACL injury late last season. Valeri has been continuously rehabbing, and finally feels up to seeing game action. Valeri skipped time with USL Pro team Timbers 2 and went straight to the Portland bench in last week's loss to Seattle. The conditions now seem right for Valeri's return.
Rodney Wallace is out again with another leg injury, and will remain out for another 4-6 weeks. His replacement, Ishmael Yartey, was thrust into a starting position, but has not made a strong case for retaining said position. Gaston Fernandez has been the next in line for a starting spot for a while, and we think he may get his chance this week will a resurgence likely to take place with the addition of Valeri into the 18. Will Johnson is also close to return for the Timbers, but for now remains with T2.
The Portland Timbers were once an attacking threat feared by even the best of defenses in the league, but this season are in the bottom half of attacking stats. Fanendo Adi has been the preferred starter for the Timbers since his DP contract was signed early last year, but new developments in practice seem to have left Adi on the bench. Last week Adi was seen arguing with an assistant coach during practice and was sent to the locker room early by Caleb Porter. Later that week Maxi Urruti got his first solo start in the striker position, but failed to produce a goal. Some are speculating Urruti now holds the starting spot, but only time will tell if Adi's benching was a one-time deal or not. The lack of attack has proven costly for the Timbers so far this season. Portland has won two of their last five matches and are already in need of a resurgence to ensure they don't miss the playoffs for consecutive years.
The Vancouver Whitecaps enter Saturday's Cascadia Cup clash as the favorite, not only in the match, but in the Western Conference. Many picked Vancouver to finish high up in the standings, and the players have delivered so far. Part of the good fortune is thanks to newcomer Octavio Rivero who has taken the league by storm. Rivero is tied with Columbus Crew SC striker Kei Kamara for the most goals in the league, with 5 so far this season. The young striker has Chilean midfielder Pedro Morales to thank for some of his success, but the whole Whitecaps midfield has been effective this year. Also up top for the Vancouver Whitecaps is veteran striker Robert Earnshaw, and youngsters Kekuta Manneh and Darren Mattocks. All capable of scoring goals, the four battle for playing time.
The last time Portland and Vancouver faced off, Vancouver won 2-1 in BC Place. Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson sent out a 4-2-3-1 lineup which clogged the Timbers midfield. Many felt that Portland was the better team that match, but Vancouver left with the spoils. The lineup will likely remain the same for Carl Robinson.
The defense of the Whitecaps remains their biggest question mark, but Robinson does not seem concerned. He has used a fairly consistent lineup featuring Danish goalkeeper David Ousted, as well as young wingback Sam Adekugbe and former Timbers defender Pa Kah. Kah, not to be outdone by his emotions, will surely be fired up for Saturday's match. In front of Kah are defensive midfielders Gershon Koffie and Matias Laba, the latter a crucial part to the Whitecaps' success. However, Laba will not be available for Saturday's match as he will be serving a red card suspension picked up in their last game which happened to be a 1-2 loss at home to Eastern Conference leaders D.C. United. Pedro Morales opened the scoring very early on, and D.C. equalized in just the ninth minute before getting the go-ahead goal in the second half.
History shows a story of Portland dominance in this particular iteration of Cascadian rivals, but Vancouver has been doing everything in their power to buck that trend lately. Early on in the season the Whitecaps have proven to be the Cascadian team to beat, even including the Sounders. Portland may come in as the underdog in many people's book, but anything can happen when Portland is in front of the Timbers Army. Catch the Cascadian Cup match at 10:30 Eastern time on TSN and MLS Live.