Portland Timbers for KYO

Know Your Opponent: Portland Timbers

The Philadelphia Union (5-10-4) are home again on Saturday to take on the Portland Timbers (9-6-4). The game kicks off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on 6abc.

What you need to know

The Portland Timbers currently sit in third place in the Western Conference through 19 games, one point behind both the Seattle Sounders and the Vancouver Whitecaps. However, a more in-depth look at the Timbers reveals that they are currently the hottest team in the MLS and also quite possibly, the best.

In their last seven games in the MLS, the Timbers have won six while holding their opponents to only one goal per game. That defensive record is even more impressive when you add the fact five of their seven goals allowed during this stretch came in one game. They have beaten some of the top teams in the league, including D.C. United, New England Revolution, and Seattle Sounders FC.

Portland have managed to capture a glimpse of their former selves, coming close to replicating their 2013 campaign where they won the Western Conference. Much of their success since coming into the league in 2011 has been due to head coach Caleb Porter. Porter took over in 2013, leading the team to their best ever finish with the help of players such as Diego Valeri, Will Johnson, and Darlington Nagbe.

The Timbers are playing a much more direct style than most of their fans are used to. The playing style change came in response to the losses of both Valeri and Johnson for the early part of the season, making them play over the top as opposed to out on the wings. It is no coincidence that since the return of both Johnson and Valeri the team has experienced their best stretch of offensive soccer, scoring 12 of the teams 22 goals since they both returned to the lineup.

Players to watch out

Diego Valeri, Midfielder: Valeri is the engine that drives this team and is one of the few players in the MLS that if he is missing from the lineup, his team stands a very slim chance at winning. He dictates everything for this team and though he has only played in 8 of their 19 games, he has a goal and three assists, contributing in four of the team’s 22 goals on the season.

Fanendo Adi, Forward: Caleb Porter’s side has thrived this season when they have someone capable of holding the ball up and knocking in goals. At 6-feet-4, Adi is that someone. With his height, he is level, if not taller, than a majority of the defenders in the MLS, and uses his body to shield the ball while pummeling the opposing goalkeeper with shots from all angles. Adi has eight goals on the season with one assist.

Adam Kwarasey, Goalkeeper: Kwarasey is a new addidtion to the team, joining them in December 2014 from Tippeligaen in Norway. Kwarasey brings with him a wealth of experience, including playing eight seasons in Norway and in the 2014 World Cup with Ghana. He has played all 19 games, allowing 20 goals with 44 saves.

Probable Lineup

4-2-3-1

Goalkeeper: Adam Kwarasey
Defenders(left to right): Jorge Villafana, Liam Ridgewell, Nat Borchers, Rodney Wallace
Midfielders(left to right): Darlington Nagbe, Will Johnson, Diego Valeri, Jack Jewsbury, Gaston Fernandez
Forward: Fanendo Adi

Facts and Figures

The Union are 0-2-3 against Portland with a 0-0-2 record against them at PPL Park. The Timbers have yet to score in a game against the Union at PPL Park, with both of their previous two meetings ending in 0-0 draws. In their most recent meeting on March 8, 2014, the teams played to a 1-1 draw after Portland scored in the 94th minute to secure a point.

The Union are coming off a 2-2 draw on June 27 at home against the Montreal Impact. The Timbers are coming off a 1-0 Sunday night home win against the San Jose Earthquakes.

Contact Union writer Kyle Basedow at kbasedow@philadelphiaunion.com.


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