Sam Ortega/Portland Timbers
Eight days removed from a surreal start to the season, a 3-all draw played in a whiteout snowstorm in Colorado, the Portland Timbers this weekend are a world away: in Los Angeles, where tomorrow's forecast calls for clear skies and a high of 59 degrees.

Their opponent on Sunday night is second-year club LAFC, a Western Conference favorite in their sophomore campaign. For the Timbers, it will be a significant early season test (4:30 p.m., TV on FOX Sports 1).

The Opponent

LAFC started the season on the right note last weekend, grinding out a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City at Banc of California Stadium on the strength of a stoppage time goal from Adama Diomande.

Grinding out results and racking up points is the theme of this year for Bob Bradley's team, which played some of the league's best soccer in its expansion season, led the Western Conference in goals scored, but failed to win a trophy and was eliminated in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

Most of that team is back, including Mark-Anthony Kaye, who missed the season's final months after undergoing ankle surgery, and settled.

There, however, three areas to watch: one is up front, where Diomande and Christian Ramirez are locked in a battle for the starting job, the second is in central defense, where young Colombian defender Eddie Segura has been starting alongside Walker Zimmerman, and the last is goalkeeper, where Tyler Miller wasn't entirely convincing in his first season as a full-time starter last year.

The Tactics

The Timbers' draw last weekend, given that they twice took the lead and played for more than an hour against ten men, was a clear disappointment. But given the conditions, not to mention the early red card, it was impossible to read anything into the particulars of the team's performance.

Sunday, then, will provide something of an early reset — a chance for the Timbers to play what will be, in many respects, their first real game of the season.

It'll be tough. LAFC remains a standout attacking side, and they like to possess. The offense increasingly ran through Lee Nguyen down the stretch last year, and he leads a three-man midfield that, with the help of Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi dropping in, will happily control the flow of the game if they're allowed.

The key for the Timbers' under-fire defense will, in large part, be organization. They had trouble throughout the Colorado game with their spacing and awareness in the box, and whoever starts at forward for LAFC will punish any similar laxity on Sunday.

Going forward, the Timbers need a little bit more from Jeremy Ebobisse in the final third — either stretching the field, or occupying center backs. His linkup play was as solid as ever last weekend, but he needs to do more damage deeper in the opponent's half.

The Lineup

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

— David Guzman limped off late in the draw Colorado, but he trained fully this week and will be available on Sunday.

— You figure that Jorge Moreira will get a shot at some point to start at right back, but this might be a week or two too soon.

The History

From Bradley screaming at Gio Savarese on the Providence Park sideline in May to the racial abuse charge leveled at a Timbers player by Diomande in July, these two clubs clashed early and often last year. We'll see if any of that fractiousness carries over to 2019.

The Pick

It should be an enjoyable, competitive game, but the Timbers defense isn't ultimately going to be able to contain LAFC's attack. 2-1 to the hosts.