After consecutive 0-0 draws at Colorado and the New York Red Bulls, the Portland Timbers return to Providence Park for their longest and most important homestand of the season. First up? A Wednesday night clash with the Montreal Impact (7:30 PM, TV on ROOT Sports).
It's been more than a year since Portland and Montreal last played, but more than three years since the teams last met in the Rose City. That matchup, on the second weekend of the 2013 season, marked Troy Perkins' return to Portland after the goalkeeper was controversially traded for Donovan Ricketts midway through the 2012 campaign.
The Impact won that match 2-1 with Hassoun Camara scoring a bicycle in the first half. 2014's meeting was also about a player who had switched sides, as Futty Danso's Montreal debut was marred by an own goal that cost his team a 3-2 decision in driving rain at Stade Saputo. Futty's MLS career would never recover.
Last season's meeting in early May in Montreal was won 2-1 by the Timbers, with Nat Borchers on the scoresheet and Diego Valeri scoring his first goal after returning from his ACL tear. The first ever meeting between the club's was won 2-0 by Montreal at the Olympic Stadium in the spring of 2012.
Portland and Montreal's best history came before the two clubs were in MLS, but Wednesday nights game is one of the most important ever between these two teams — with both in playoff races and boasting teams capable of winning MLS Cup.
The Timbers lost Darren Mattocks to a hamstring injury just 30 seconds into their game against New York on Sunday, and he's facing a recovery time of eight to ten weeks. Diego Chara, suspended for yellow card accumulation, is out as well.
Those absences will force creativity out of Caleb Porter, who will also be without Diego Valeri for the third consecutive game. The maestro, who picked up a knock against LA two weeks ago in the US Open Cup, could return Sunday to face Seattle.
The like-for-like replacement for Chara is Jack Jewsbury, while Ned Grabavoy looks the likeliest replacement for Mattocks. Grabavoy will play tucked inside and support Nagbe in the #10 role, while Jewsbury could play higher up the field with Zemanski covering. Jack Barmby and Jack McInerney should see the field as well.
Defensively, the team should be unchanged, with Zarek Valentin at left back and Jake Gleeson — named to the MLS Team of the Week for his display against the Red Bulls and confirmed as the team's starting goalkeeper for the foreseeable future by Porter on Tuesday — in goal.
The Impact will be without Didier Drogba, who is injured, but they do have the reigning MLS Defender of the Year Laurent Ciman back from Euro 2016. Montreal played at Real Salt Lake on Saturday night, drawing 1-1. Late Tuesday, Montreal traded forward Cameron Porter to Sporting Kansas City for fullback Amadou Dia — the man who scored in the tenth round of Kansas City's Wild Card shootout loss to the Timbers last year.
90 - Gleeson
2 - Powell
24 - Ridgewell (C)
7 - Borchers
16 - Valentin
14 - Zemanski
13 - Jewsbury
6 - Nagbe
10 - Grabavoy
26 - Melano
9 - Adi
The Timbers' attack has struggled without Valeri this year, but the Impact don't defend particularly well and Nagbe is due for a big night. 2-1 Portland.