Having reached the eight points target away from home, Toronto FC aim to join Montreal Impact at the top of the Eastern Conference table, making a bold title statement. On the other hand, hosts Portland Timbers are seeking some inspiration, as they are occupying the penultimate place at nine points in the Western Conference table.
When the holders commenced their title defense with a 2-1 win over the Crew, things looked great for the Timbers. However, this win was followed up by a winless streak which spanned five matches, including the humiliating 4-1 loss against Orlando City at Citrus Bowl. The situation was improved in their home fixture against the San Jose Earthquakes when they deservedly registered a 3-1 victory, but their 1-1 draw against the New England Revolution last week highlighted their difficulties both at the back and also upfront. Is Liam Ridgewell's injury that important? The lack of concentration and sometimes also of composure seems to cost the Timbers lot of points and consequently composure in the other areas of the pitch, which eventually obstructs them from performing well. Nonetheless, they are still the holders and in one way or another, they will resurge and show their true strength.
At this stage of the season last year, TFC had managed to grab nine points, one less than this season. However, last season the team lacked composure, was shy of expressing itself especially upfront and Sebastian Giovinco was not yet... well, Sebastian Giovinco. The likes of Clint Irwin, Steven Beitashour (whom the Whitecaps are regretting without any doubts) and Drew Moor have integrated very well at TFC and they form 3/5 of the defense, with Justin Morrow and a reborn Damian Perquis completing the backline. Michael Bradley in a 4-4-2 formation seems to have found his footing and manager Greg Vanney is hoping that throughout the season he can become more decisive than he already is. After Mark Bloom and Tsubasa Endoh, the right wing might welcome another youngster in Jay Chapman, who was called up for this match together with Nick Hagglund and Chris Manella. Upfront, Giovinco will strive to find the net again and continue to push towards a possibile UEFA Euro 2016 call up while Jozy Altidore seems to practice what he has preached prior all season: more hard work and determination.
Here are the projected lineups for this fixture:
Portland Timbers (4-3-3): Gleeson; Valentin, Borchers, Taylor, Klute, Melano, Asprilla, Jewsbury, Nagbe, Adi, Barmby.
Toronto FC (4-4-2): Irwin; Beitashour, Perquis, Moor, Morrow, Delgado, Bradley, Johnson, Chapman, Giovinco, Altidore.
The Timbers and TFC form a complete paradox of each other. While the former struggle to keep a cleansheet, Greg Vanney's side seem to have shaped up the defense very well, especially through the leadership of Drew Moor at the core of the defense. Therefore, with the Timbers struggling at the back and an on-form Giovinco, TFC will certainly grab a goal or two. On the other side, Timbers may find it pretty tough to break the duck, however, with the likes of Fanendo Adi and the possibility of seeing Darlington Nagbe from the 1st minute, things could become more likely for the hosts.