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Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers
After a deflating five-day stretch in Minnesota that culminated in their elimination from the U.S. Open Cup, the Portland Timbers return to Providence Park on Saturday night looking to return to winning ways in their second and final meeting of the season with the Vancouver Whitecaps (8 p.m., TV on KPDX).

The Opposition

After a five-year run in Vancouver, Carl Robinson was fired as Whitecaps manager at the end of last season. LAFC assistant and Montreal native Marc Dos Santos took over, and began his tenure by absolutely gutting the roster he inherited.

Cornerstones like Kendall Waston, Kei Kamara, and Christian Techera departed, some 13 players arrived brought in from leagues around the world to replace them, and very, very few of them have made a positive impression.

The Whitecaps have by no means excelled defensively, but they've been painful to watch going forward — where they've scored the fewest goals in the Western Conference and the second-fewest in the league. Accordingly, they're currently sitting in 11th in the West, averaging less than a point per game.

Add in a fair amount of off-the-field drama, most notably the club's mishandling of abuse allegations against a former youth coach, It's been an incredibly dispiriting season in British Columbia.

Dos Santos continues to be highly regarded around the league, and he may well have a longterm vision worth building towards, but questions about the club's scouting ability and its willingness to spend the money required to compete in this era of MLS loom large.

The Tactics

After losing five straight MLS games by a combined score of 17-2 and getting bounced from the Canadian Championship by Calgary, Dos Santos went back to the basics for the club's game in Minnesota two weeks ago: sitting ten players behind the ball, and not letting his team beat itself.

It was regressive, but the Whitecaps got out of Saint Paul with a 0-0 draw, and then went to Cincinnati last weekend and came back to win their first game since late May 2-1. In Cincinnati, Vancouver lined up in the Christmas Tree formation that Gio Savarese in his first spring with the Timbers.

What does that mean for Saturday night? It means that the Whitecaps make themselves difficult to break down, limit the Timbers in transition, and hope for the best.

The Timbers will have to break the Whitecaps down and create chances via sustained spells of possession — something that they have never been particularly good at under Savarese, and struggled with at times in both of their recent games against Minnesota.

One option available to the Savarese as he approaches this game is moving Jeremy Ebobisse to his natural center forward position and pushing Brian Fernandez out wide. Ebobisse was excellent when he came central in both of the games against the Loons, while Fernandez likes to drift to the wing regardless.

Vancouver might not have enough talent to hang on defensively regardless. But as they begin a ten-game homestand, the Timbers are going to have to figure out their fair share of bunkers. That challenge starts tomorrow night.

The Lineup

12 - Clark
4 - Villafaña
18 - Cascante
33 - Mabiala
2 - Moreira
21 - Chara
40 - Zambrano
10 - Blanco
8 - Valeri (C)
17 - Ebobisse
7 - Fernandez

— Julio Cascante, Jorge Villafaña, and Diego Valeri were all rested for the Open Cup game on Wednesday night, and should all slot back into the starting lineup.

— Cristhian Paredes looked a step off the pace on Wednesday night, and Renzo Zambrano, who hasn't appeared at all since the LA Galaxy game two weeks ago, could step into central midfield for this one.

— If Savarese decides to give Larrys Mabiala the day off, Bill Tuiloma — who himself hasn't started since the LAFC game on June 1 — should partner Cascante.

The Memory

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Vancouver came to Portland last August and snapped the Timbers' 15-game unbeaten, winning 2-1. Incredibly, only one player who started that game for the Whitecaps is still with the club.

The Pick

A get well win. Timbers 3, Whitecaps 0.