Fresh off their worst home defeat as an MLS franchise, the near-comically depleted Portland Timbers head north for a Sunday afternoon clash with their resurgent Canadian rivals from Vancouver (3:30 p.m., TV on Fox Sports 1).
The Timbers, now just one point above the Western Conference red line, are hurting. They could be without as many eleven players — including six starters — as they try to stop the bleeding in a season going quite remarkably awry.
This marks the Timbers' first trip to BC Place since the final day of last season — when Portland, needing a win to qualify for the playoffs, was dismantled 4-1 by a Whitecaps side that had long since been eliminated from postseason contention.
That game ended the Timbers' title defense, consigned them to a winless road campaign, and cost them the Cascadia Cup. It was the final time that Jack Jewsbury, Steven Taylor, Jermaine Taylor, Jack McInerney, and Lucas Melano would appear for club.
That match aside, however, BC Place has been a happy hunting ground for the Timbers since the Whitecaps took up residency there seven years ago. Portland won the game that opened the building for MLS play in 2011, won the Cascadia Cup there in 2012, and won a playoff series there in 2015.
This game will be the second of three this year between the Timbers and Whitecaps, with the clubs meeting back in Portland on the final day of the season. The first meeting of the year came at Providence Park in May, when the Timbers won 2-1 behind a thunderbolt of a goal from Darlington Nagbe.
Portland was still flying rather high then, but the fortunes of both clubs have turned in the intervening months. Vancouver jumped the Timbers in the standings on Wednesday with a win in Los Angeles. Carl Robinson's team has lost just once in its last six games.
Think the Timbers were shorthanded on Wednesday night? It could be a whole lot worse on Sunday.
Fanendo Adi and Victor Arboleda, sent off against RSL, will be suspended for Sunday's game. Portland will again be without Darlington Nagbe, David Guzman, Alvas Powell, and Darren Mattocks while all four compete in Gold Cup semifinals over the weekend. Liam Ridgewell, Amobi Okugo, and now Chance Myers are all out long-term with Vytas and Marco Farfan out for this game at least. Diego Chara is listed as questionable.
Add it all up, and the Timbers have, for the first time ever, qualified for MLS's hardship rule and have called up two players from T2 for the match.
Caleb Porter's lineup card will be dictated, for the most part, by who's available. Roy Miller will play left back, and Lawrence Olum — as he did when Myers went down on Wednesday — will drop into central defense next to Larrys Mabiala.
If Chara can't play, Sebastian Blanco will play central midfield next to Ben Zemanski. If Chara does make it, Blanco will play in his usual attacking position.
Up top, with both Adi and Mattocks out, rookie Jermey Ebobisse — who was bright in his substitute minutes on Wednesday — could be in line to make his first MLS start. Porter's other option would be to move Dairon Asprilla up top, and give Jack Barmby his first start of the season on the wing.
The Whitecaps will be without their captain Kendall Waston, who is with Costa Rica, but are otherwise healthy and intact.
90 - Gleeson
7 - Miller
13 - Olum
33 - Mabiala
16 - Valentin
14 - Zemanski
10 - Blanco
23 - Barmby
8 - Valeri (C)
27 - Asprilla
17 - Ebobisse
The Whitecaps are playing some of the Western Conference's best soccer right now, and they've been strong at home this season. It doesn't bode well for a Portland team that has been, to put it plainly, decimated. Vancouver wins 3-1.