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Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers
After absorbing a 4-1 beatdown in Los Angeles last weekend, the Portland Timbers will on Sunday be at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio for a historic occasion: the newest MLS side's first ever top-flight home game.

There, the Timbers, will be facing a handful of familiar faces — and doing so minus the services of the suspended Diego Chara, a player without whom they have not won in an extraordinary 22 straight MLS games (2 p.m., TV on FOX Sports 1).

The Opposition

FC Cincinnati's rise, from USL expansion side in 2016 to MLS expansion side just three years later, has been one of the most remarkable American soccer stories of this decade.

The city wasn't even near the list of the likeliest expansion cities as late as 2015, but after consistently drawing crowds of more than 25,000, and nearly 35,000 for several U.S. Open Cup games during FCC's magical run in that competition two years ago, made clear that it belonged in the league.

Cincinnati hasn't spent the money that LAFC or Atlanta spent to launch their MLS franchises, but it should be backed by similarly vociferous support. The club has sold in excess of 20,000 season tickets, and Nippert Stadium, the home Cincinnati football, will be at capacity for the home opener.

Cincinnati is also, more than any other team in the league, loaded with former Timbers. Cincinnati traded for Fanendo Adi last summer and Alvas Powell in December, picked up Darren Mattocks in the expansion draft, and added Pa Modou Kah to the coaching staff in January.

Of the four, it's Adi and Powell, fifth and sixth respectively on the Timbers' all-time MLS career appearance chart, who have the strongest connections to Portland. Powell this week tweeted a picture of the 2015 Timbers celebrating their MLS Cup triumph in Columbus, while Adi told The Oregonian's Jamie Goldberg that, if he scores on Sunday, he won't celebrate.

For both players, it will be an emotional evening — as it undoubtedly will be for the Cincinnati soccer community as a whole.

The Tactics

It was at this point last season, coming off of a heavy loss in New Jersey against the Red Bulls, that Giovani Savarese scrapped the high line, scrapped the high press, and began setting the Timbers up in the 4-3-2-1 Christmas tree formation that'd come to define the first part of their season.

Then, it was the right call. After being outscored by a combined 6-1 in the first two games of the year, the Timbers got back-to-back draws, lost to Orlando, and then went 15 games unbeaten.

This year hasn't started quite as badly, and Savarese isn't facing the same kind of pressure to prove himself that he was in his first year in the league, but the Timbers have conceded seven goals in their first two games and are facing the prospect of playing this, their third game, without their best defensive player.

It would not, therefore, be a huge surprise to see Savarese drop an extra player into central midfield on Sunday. But his options in that position seem limited, and the Timbers have had good rhythm going forward. It'll be interesting to see his approach.

Cincinnati, after investing heavily in their central midfield and backline, have started the year in a 5-4-1. It was exposed by Seattle, but held up very nicely in Atlanta in the 1-1 draw last weekend. In both of those games, Cincinnati had very little possession and generated very few shots.

They should be more ambitious at home, but the general structure — three center backs, two center mids, Adi up top — is likely to stay the same. The Timbers should have plenty of opportunities to get their foot on the ball and go forward, but they'll have to be disciplined positionally and organized defensively.

The Lineup

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

— Jorge Moreira is going to get a run of games at some point, and, given the way the season has started, it's unclear whether Zarek Valentin or Jorge Villafaña's position in the lineup is under more threat.

— Who will take Chará's spot in the lineup? Who knows. Cristhian Paredes has yet to feature in a matchday squad this year, but the central midfield option who has been on the bench — Andrés Flores — is not a natural number six.

— Julio Cascante is another player who has had an unconvincing start to the year, and with Claude Dielna waiting in the wings and Bill Tuiloma getting healthy, Savarese could make a change in central defense as well.

The Memory

The Timbers have never before been the opponent in another team's first MLS home game, but they beat the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first MLS game played at BC Place towards the end of the 2011 season on the strength of this brilliant goal from Kenny Cooper.

The Pick

The Timbers' winless streak without Chara continues, but they do get a point in an entertaining 2-2 draw.