On the final leg of their five-game, month-long road trip to begin the 2018 MLS season, the Portland Timbers will be in Orlando, FL this Sunday afternoon to face Orlando City (1:00 pm, TV on ESPN).
The Timbers will be looking to build on the points picked up in Dallas and Chicago in one of MLS's best venues — a welcome appetizer for what is to come when Providence Park re-opens in just eight days time.
It's already been a wild ride in 2018 for Orlando, a club that executed a drastic and much-applauded overhaul of its roster in the winter and then proceeded to take just one point from its first three games before getting a thoroughly crazy and badly needed 4-3 win over the New York Red Bulls last weekend.
But that win, important as it was, doesn't mean that Orlando and their manager Jason Kreis are out of the woods yet. This is already Orlando's fourth home game of the year, and they're sitting in eighth place in what appears to be a loaded Eastern Conference. They need wins.
The good news is that Orlando is starting to get healthy. The Lions were without five starters to begin the year and continue to wait for Uri Rosell to get fit, but last weekend's game was a glimpse — especially on the attacking side — of what this team can be.
Orlando is one of the few MLS cities, Portland certainly amongst them, where there is palpable pressure to win. We should feel it on Sunday.
Kreis switched out of a 4-4-2 diamond and into a 4-2-3-1 at halftime of the game last weekend, and the expectation is that Orlando will start the game in that shape on Sunday — especially if young DP Josue Colman, who got 45 minutes against the Red Bulls, gets his first start.
What does that mean for the Timbers? A couple of things. One is that Orlando, with a likely front four of Dwyer, Justin Meram, Colman, and Sacha Kljestan, is going to be pretty lethal going forward.
The key for the Timbers, then, especially if they play in some version of the 4-3-3 that Savarese has deployed the last two weeks, will be to stay compact defensively and make it difficult for Orlando to play through their lines.
If the Timbers can do that, there will be opportunities for them on the counter just as there were — in abundance — for DC and Minnesota earlier this year. Defensively, Orlando has been a sieve. Whatever happens, it should be entertaining.
90 - Gleeson
2 - Powell
33 - Mabiala
25 - Tuiloma
5 - Vytas
22 - Paredes
21 - Chara
14 - Flores
10 - Blanco
8 - Valeri (C)
9 - Adi
— David Guzman remains in Costa Rica rehabbing from the injury he suffered during the international break, and is out.
— Vytas made his first appearance of the season at the end of the Chicago game last weekend, and, depending on fitness, could make his first start in this one.
— What's Liam Ridgewell's status? Who knows. Savarese's message on Wednesday was that "Ridgewell is very important for us" and "sooner than later, you'll see that," but that sounds an awful lot like what he said last week before Ridgewell didn't make the trip to Chicago.
This will be Portland's first trip to Orlando City Stadium, which opened last year. The last time the Timbers played in Orlando, they were humiliated 4-0 at the Citrus Bowl in a loss that rivaled even the beatdown suffered against the Red Bulls in March.
The only real expectation with Orlando is the unexpected, but it's hard to see how the Timbers' defense is going to be able to keep that collection of attacking players at bay over 90 minutes. The Lions win 3-2.