On Monday morning, just a day removed from their crucial 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake, the Portland Timbers traveled to Central America for a Wednesday clash against Costa Rican champions Saprissa in the CONCACAF Champions League.
It wasn't pretty. American teams have had precious little success in the Monster's Cave, Saprissa and the Costa Rican national team's home stadium, and the Timbers, despite taking an early lead through Diego Valeri, were mostly bludgeoned in what would end as a 4-2 defeat.
On Saturday, it's back to league play at Providence Park — with the Timbers looking to further cement their postseason status as the Philadelphia Union come to town (3:00 PM, TV on ROOT Sports).
This is the first meeting of the year between the Timbers and Union, and Philadelphia's first trip to Providence Park since Opening Day of the 2014 season.
Last year, the Timbers brought a severely weakened team to Chester, PA for a mid-July match — Andrew Weber started in goal — and the Union responded by winning 3-0. That match aside, though, Portland has clearly had the better of this series.
The highest profile game between the two clubs was a nationally-televised Opening Day clash at Jeld-Wen Field in 2012. The Timbers came from behind to win 3-1 in a torrential rainstorm, with Kris Boyd scoring the go-ahead goal on his debut. Portland also beat Philly at home in 2011 on a late headed goal from Futty Danso.
The two teams share very little mutual history. Neither team starts a player who at one point played for the opposite team. This will be the Union's first trip to Portland under current manager Jim Curtin.
The Timbers' brought a first-choice team to Costa Rica midweek, but they did give the benefit of rest to several key starters. Darlington Nagbe, who was in St. Vincent and the Grenadines with the USMNT at the beginning of the month didn't travel. Neither did veterans Jack Jewsbury and Liam Ridgewell. Alvas Powell, who also did his fair share of globetrotting over the international break, was rested as well.
Those four players will all start on Sunday, and around them, the Timbers should be unchanged from the side that beat Real Salt Lake last weekend. The only position that might be up for grabs is on the wing opposite Nagbe, but Lucas Melano hardly made a convincing case for himself to start over Darren Mattocks against Saprissa.
The Union come into the enter Saturday's match in a good spot — sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and heading for their first playoff appearance since 2011. Philadelphia is particularly strong through midfield, where Tranquillo Barnetta and Alejandro Bedoya are players to watch.
The Timbers considered moving back the kickoff of this game, but with the Union scheduled to fly out on a redeye and the weather forecast projecting relatively cool temperatures, it will stay a 3:00 PM kick. Chris Penso, the most card and penalty-happy referee in MLS, is, unfortunately the referee.
90 - Gleeson
2 - Powell
24 - Ridgewell (C)
27 - S. Taylor
5 - Vytas
13 - Jewsbury
21 - Chara
6 - Nagbe
8 - Valeri
22 - Mattocks
9 - Adi
The Champions League travel and strength of the Union mean that this game is far from a sure thing, but no one has ever made any money betting against the Caleb Porter Timbers at home in the fall. 2-1 Portland.