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Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers
It's showtime. The Portland Timbers' ninth MLS season, and the first of the twelve straight road games that are set to start it, will commence on Saturday afternoon in Commerce City, Colorado as the Timbers face a revamped Colorado Rapids side (3 p.m., TV on ROOT Sports).

The Opponent

After failing to average even a point per game in both 2017 and 2018, the Rapids this offseason decided to invest exclusively in proven MLS talent. Kei Kamara, Keegan Rosenberry, Benny Feilhaber, and Diego Rubio have all come in, and, as a result, there is a renewed optimism around this team heading into 2019.

Second year manager Anthony Hudson has set the Rapids up in a 4-4-2 diamond, and the early returns have been positive: Colorado played some attractive soccer in preseason, holding the ball in midfield and getting their fullbacks forward, and the partnership of Rubio and Kamara is going to be a handful.

The defense, however, which conceded 63 goals in 2018, has not been so encouraging. Tommy Smith had a difficult debut season in the league last year but appears set to start at center back, while Tim Howard, who announced that this season will be his last before retirement, was a liability in goal last year.

Big picture, the Rapids are building towards 2020 and the departures of DPs Howard and Shkëlzen Gashi. But Hudson, GM Pádrig Smith, and a suffering fanbase badly need some success this year. They'll want to get off on the right foot at home.

The Tactics

It feels like a long time ago now, but at this time last year, Giovani Savarese had the Timbers high-pressing and playing a high defensive line — an approach he abandoned only after the team was outscored 6-1 in its first two games at the LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls.

We didn't see the high line again in 2018. But the Timbers did try to play a version of it at times during preseason, and you have a feeling that its still how Savarese ultimately would like his team to play.

Still, it's far more likely that, given the personnel available to him, Portland will be set up on Saturday much as they were last season: with numbers players behind the ball, looking for opportunities in transition. Against a central midfield without a ton of speed, and which might be anchored by 17-year-old Cole Bassett if Jack Price can't go, there will be space available.

That said, the Rapids will have the majority of possession — and if they can pull apart the Timbers' backline, either with the ball through the likes of Feilhaber and Kellyn Acosta or with the overlapping runs of the fullbacks, they'll get their chances too.

Neither defense inspires all that much confidence. It could be, by the Timbers and Rapids' standards, a fairly open game.

The Lineup

1 - Attinella
4 - Villafaña
18 - Cascante
33 - Mabiala
16 - Valentin
20 - Guzmán
21 - Chará
11 - Polo
8 - Valeri (C)
10 - Blanco
17 - Ebobisse

— Julio Cascante has started at center back throughout preseason, and is set to get the opening day nod ahead of Claude Dielna as Bill Tuiloma continues to work his way back to full fitness.

— Jorge Moreira is still expected to be the starter at right back long-term, but Savarese will likely give him time to acclimate and start the year with Zarek Valentin at the position.

— Who can we expect to see on the bench on Saturday? My guess is Steve Clark, Moreira, Dielna, Andrés Flores, Marvin Loría, Dairon Asprilla, and Lucas Melano.

The Memory

It was the Sam Armenteros show when these two teams met at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in May of last year, with the Swede scoring twice in the space of eight minutes in the first half. Armenteros, in case you're wondering, has made just two substitute appearances for a combined five minutes since returning to Benevento at the end of December.

The Pick

The Rapids should be much, much improved, but the Timbers' familiarity, at this stage of the season, will count for plenty. It'll finish 2-2.