Winners of five straight games, the Portland Timbers are up to third place in the Western Conference back on the road this weekend for a first meeting of the season with the moribund, bottom-of-the-league Colorado Rapids in Commerce City, CO (6:00 p.m., TV on KPDX)
The Rapids hired a new manager and spent a significant amount of money this winter, but have thus far ended up exactly where they were last season — bottom of the league, anemic offensively, and regressing defensively.
Colorado has lost five straight games, including two at home, by a combined ten goals. Manager Anthony Hudson's personnel decisions have been perplexing, with a number of the club's better-paid players frozen out of the team or injured, and confidence is low.
Tim Howard, the club's star, is, at this stage of his career, a liability in a goal. One bright spot has been British midfielder Jack Price, who was suspended for last weekend's loss at New York City, but will return to the lineup this weekend.
The Rapids badly need a boost from him and a win in this game. Their season is quickly slipping away.
Hudson uses a 5-3-2 — the same formation as the Timbers saw in their against Seattle and LAFC — and while the look has given the Rapids some added pop offensively, it's been fairly easy to break down on the other end of the field.
Colorado's center backs haven't sealed off seams between them and their wingbacks well at all this season, and the likes of Sebastian Blanco and Diego Valeri should be looking to hit them on the counter. The Rapids prefer to counter as well, but might have to spend time on the ball.
The Timbers, meanwhile, have been nearly impossible to break down defensively since the New York City game a little more than a month ago. They'll likely shade more towards a 4-3-2-1 in this game, and stay compact through the middle.
One other note: referee Sorin Stoica has called more fouls per game this year than any other official in the league. It's not going to be pretty.
1 - Attinella
16 - Valentin
18 - Cascante
33 - Mabiala
2 - Powell
21 - Chara
22 - Paredes
11 - Polo
8 - Valeri (C)
10 - Blanco
9 - Adi
— After naming an unchanged team for three straight matches, Savarese will be forced into changes this weekend. Liam Ridgewell is out for at least two weeks with a quad strain, while Andy Polo will likely be gone with Peru ahead of the World Cup.
— Julio Cascante was impressive in Ridgewell's stead against LAFC, though Bill Tuiloma is fit again and should at least be in the 18 for the first time since the Minnesota game.
— Andrés Flores played 45 minutes midweek for T2 in their friendly against St. Pauli, but he's been the first midfielder off the bench for Savarese all season and is the most likely candidate to slot in if Andy Polo has joined Peru's World Cup camp ahead of this game.
— There have been cries for Samuel Armenteros to start after his contributions over the last three weeks, but Fanendo Adi is playing — if not finishing — quite well, and Arementeros' pace is better suited to a super-sub role.
Portland's trip to Dick's Sporting Goods Park last year was an unhappy one — with Alan Gordon's late winner securing a 2-1, come-from-behind win for the home side.
The Timbers have historically struggled in Colorado — just one win in seven years — and both teams' respective streaks are bound to come to an end eventually. It finishes 1-1.