The Hoops scraped out a home draw against San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday while Portland survived in Los Angeles, managing a 1-1 draw on the road.
If Ever an Opportunity
I don’t need to tell FC Dallas fans that Portland is one of the toughest teams we'll face this season. Consistently, the Timbers make games difficult for the Hoops and that is exacerbated on the road.
However, with the slew of injuries facing Portland this week as well as their spotty form, Dallas has some hope. Portland still have a lot of great players but with the likes of Dairon Asprilla, Darlington Nagbe, and Liam Ridgewell all injured, Dallas might have a shot.
It looks unlikely that Mauro Diaz will return for this game so both sides will be missing key players.
Concerning form for the Timbers
Portland has just five points from five games played. This is concerning and Portland seems to always have a rough start to the season, but the Timbers have played three away games against some of the better teams in the league so far.
The loss of Jorge Villafaña has affected Portland’s defense though. They have lost to San Jose and Orlando on the road and only managed a draw against Real Salt Lake at home. Portland is still very dangerous and they are not having problems scoring with seven goals so far with Fanendo Adi chipping in four of them.
As mentioned Portland will be without Nagbe, Asprilla, and Ridgewell this week. Caleb Porter typically uses 4-2-3-1 type formation.
GK: Adam Larsen Kwarasey; RB: Alvis Powell CB: Jermaine Taylor, Nat Borchers; LB: Chris Klute; CDM: Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury; RM: Darren Mattocks; LM: Lucas Melano; CAM: Diego Valeri; F: Fanendo Adi
Carlos Gruezo vs. Diego Valeri. Carlos Gruezo has been a very good player for Dallas so far, shutting down attacks early and making some decent passes going forward. He is going to be critical to stopping the creative engine in Portland’s team. Valeri is capable of making the sort of passes Dallas are lacking without Diaz. Gruezo’s biggest test of the season so far is tonight. Keep an eye on Gruezo and Valeri, their battle will be decisive.
Keys to Three Points
URRUTI. This is Maximiliano Urruti’s first game back in Portland and I expect he will be out to prove himself. He could never get time as a starter in Portland and he will want to show what he can do when he plays 90 minutes.
Tonight Urruti is Kobe Bryant; get the ball to Kobe and let him play. Hopefully he scores some goals and makes Porter regret that decision. Papi bring your tissues.
Wing Play. Fabian Castillo and Michael Barrios have had a slow start to the season. Castillo specifically has become concerning recently. Portland are not at their peak defensively, missing some players and still figuring themselves out from key losses during the winter. If Barrios or Castillo can turn it on this week than Portland watch out. If they can’t… well, it probably won’t go great.
Portland’s Attacking Trio. Portland have their own attacking trio in Valeri, Melano, and Adi. Dallas will need to interrupt their play in the midfield and limit their opportunities to shoot. All three of them have the ability to shoot well and will almost certainly punish any mistakes.
Good communication in the Dallas defense is going to be vital this week to restraining those three.
My gut tells me that Dallas figures itself out this week. Urruti gets a goal and Matt Hedges scores off of a corner to make it an exciting first half. Valeri pulls one back to make it close until the end.
My Prediction: 2-1 FC Dallas.