It's been tough sledding of late for the Portland Timbers, who, after drawing Atlanta United 1-1 at Providence Park last weekend, have now won just twice in their last eight games and slipped down to fourth in the Western Conference.
This weekend, the Timbers will look to right the ship ahead of a crucial stretch of games in late May and June with their prolific front four reunited for an early kickoff in Québec against the Montreal Impact (12:00 PM, TV on ROOT Sports).
The Timbers and Impact were both mainstays of the USL through the 2000s, but have met just once per season since joining MLS in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
In the MLS series between the two clubs, the road team has had plenty of success. The Timbers are unbeaten at Stade Saputo, winning games there 3-2 in 2014 and 2-1 in 2015. The 2014 game was decided on a Futty Danso own goal, while Portland held onto its 2015 win after a Jack McInerney equalizer was disallowed with twelve minutes to go.
Montreal, on the other hand, is unbeaten in MLS play at Providence Park. They beat the Timbers 2-1 there in Caleb Porter's second game with the club in 2013, when Troy Perkins received a much-discussed hero's welcome from the Timbers Army.
The last meeting between the two clubs finished 1-1 on a Wednesday night in Portland last summer. Though they've been frequent trading partners in the last several years, neither club currently employs a player who once played for the other club.
With Darlington Nagbe set to return from injury, the Timbers will be able to start their first-choice front four of Nagbe, Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco, and Fanendo Adi for the first time since the Sporting Kansas City game on April 15.
Porter has a decision to make at center back, where Roy Miller took Lawrence Olum out of the starting lineup last weekend and was effective against Atlanta. Miller has been the better player this year, but, being left-footed, he is not an ideal candidate to play right center back. It feels like a tossup between the pair.
Montreal, frequently slow-starters, have yet to round into form in 2017. The Impact are bottom of the Eastern Conference, with just ten points from their first ten games. The club hasn't been especially good defensively, and is 0-3-1 against the Western Conference.
Montreal was, however, handed a boost last weekend when their new Swiss DP Blerim Dzemaili made his debut against the Columbus Crew. He should be in the starting lineup again on Saturday, and his presence, along with Piatti's, will give David Guzman and Diego Chara plenty to do defensively. The pair has to be well-connected to the Timbers' backline.
The good news is that Montreal plays fairly slowly, and, depending somewhat on personnel, likes to do most of its damage on the counter. Portland should have more of the ball than they did last Sunday. They need to be much cleaner with it.
90 - Gleeson
5 - Vytas
24 - Ridgewell (C)
7 - Miller
2 - Powell
20 - Guzman
21 - Chara
6 - Nagbe
8 - Valeri
10 - Blanco
9 - Adi
Montreal needs points and a response after losing at home last weekend, while the Timbers will be similarly eager to put last weekend behind them. Both attacks can do damage, while both defenses have been short of their best this season. 2-2 draw.