After a four-point, two-game road trip, the Portland Timbers will return to Providence Park on Sunday to face a struggling LA Galaxy team that — between the heat and the smoke — should feel right at home in the Rose City.
Thanks to the unrelenting heat, the game — originally slated to kickoff just after 1:30 — has been moved up to brunch-time, 11:00 a.m., making for the earliest kickoff of a home game in the Timbers' MLS history (11:00 a.m., TV on ESPN).
LA's last visit to Portland came just over a year ago, and was also played on a hot afternoon to an ESPN audience. It didn't go well for the Timbers. Nat Borchers tore his Achilles at the end of the first half, and the Galaxy ran out with a 2-1 win behind a pair of early goals from Gyasi Zardes and Robbie Keane.
Portland hasn't beaten LA at Providence Park since way back in 2013 — Caleb Porter's first season at the helm — when it got wins over the Galaxy here in both July and October. The first of those games, the one played in July, was an all-time classic — won in the 94th minute by Andrew Jean-Baptiste.
This game marks the second meeting of the season between the Timbers and Galaxy. The first, played at the StubHub Center and won 1-0 by Portland way back in March, feels like an eternity to go.
For then-Galaxy manager Curt Onalfo, that defeat was a harbinger of things to come. LA would only win one of its first ten home games — leading to Onalfo's ouster last week.
To replace Onalfo, the Galaxy have turned to a familiar face: longtime Seattle manager Sigi Schmid, who led the Sounders into Providence Park eleven times during his seven-and-a-half years in the Pacific Northwest. On Sunday, Schmid will make his return to Portland with a new team — and one in desperate need of a win.
The Timbers continue to get healthy. After welcoming Darlington Nagbe and David Guzman back to the lineup last week in Houston, Portland should get Vytas back from the hamstring problem that has sidelined him nearly a month on Sunday.
Perhaps even more interestingly, Liam Ridgewell — who hasn't played since early June — returned to training this week and could be available as well.
Whether Ridgewell, healthy or not, should play on a day when the temperature is expected to rise to 99 degrees is debatable — and if he's held out this weekend, Roy Miller should slide back into central defense next to Larrys Mabiala. If and when Ridgewell is fit, Miller will move to the bench.
Elsewhere the Timbers are still nursing Alvas Powell and Darron Mattocks back from various knocks picked up at the Gold Cup, while Dairon Asprilla remains a doubt with the calf injury suffered at the end of the Vancouver game. Diego Valeri, resplendent at the All-Star game on Wednesday night, should feature.
The Galaxy, meanwhile, are suffering — in ninth place in the Western Conference and seven points off of the playoff red line. LA drew Seattle 0-0 in Carson in Schmid's first game last weekend, but lose captain center back Jelle Van Damme to a red card. He's suspended for Sunday. The Galaxy are waiting on a visa for DP midfielder Jonathan dos Santos, so he's a doubt as well.
The Galaxy have played some pretty lethargic soccer this year, and a combination of that and the conditions could make for a rather slow game on Sunday. LA will look to be compact defensively, and it'll be up to the Timbers' attackers to dominate the game.
90 - Gleeson
5 - Vytas
7 - Miller
33 - Mabiala
16 - Valentin
21 - Chara
20 - Guzman
6 - Nagbe
8 - Valeri (C)
10 - Blanco
9 - Adi
Even if you assume that LA is due for a bounce after its coaching change, this game — played against a nearly full-strength Timbers team on what will be a blisteringly hot day in Portland — should be a bridge too far. Timbers win 2-0.