The Portland Timbers opened their 2017 season last Friday night at Providence Park in style, mauling expansion side Minnesota United by a score of 5-1. Diego Valeri took home MLS Player of the Week, while Fanendo Adi joined him on the league's Team of the Week.
The Timbers are back in the spotlight in Week 2 of the season, with a Sunday night date in Carson against the LA Galaxy fast approaching (6:00 PM, TV on Fox Sports 1).
Portland was in LA just two weeks ago for the final game of the preseason, which the Timbers won 2-1 behind two goals from Adi. That victory was the Timbers' first in an opposing MLS stadium since the 2015 Cup.
The Timbers have had a decent record under Caleb Porter at the StubHub Center. Their only trip to LA last year finished in a 1-1 draw, but was marred by Nigel de Jong's horror tackle on Darlington Nagbe.
Before the rout of Minnesota last Friday night, the Timbers had only scored five goals twice in their MLS history — and both games were at the StubHub Center. One was a 5-0 win over Chivas USA on the final day of the 2013 regular season, and the second was the famous 5-2 win over the Galaxy on the penultimate day of the '15 season.
LA did not enjoy such a rosy start to the season. The Galaxy opened the Curt Onalfo era with a home loss against Dallas last Saturday, and then saw the Disciplinary Committee hand down suspensions for Jermaine Jones and Dave Romney midweek. Both players will miss this game.
The Galaxy have been in the news this week for their pursuit of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but confidence in the current team is low as it has been in years. Onalfo badly needs a win.
The Timbers, all of the sudden, have injury problems. Vytas will miss the trip with a minor calf strain, while Liam Ridgewell and Alvas Powell both limped out of training on Wednesday and are questionable for Sunday.
In Vytas' place at left back will be 18-year-old Portland native Marco Farfan, who will become the Timbers' first academy player to start an MLS game for the club. Farfan was also in the lineup for the preseason game between these two clubs, and showed well. Porter is confident that he'll be ready to go.
Chance Myers would be the likely replacement for Powell at left back, with Zarek Valentin serving as a secondary option. If Ridgewell is out, Porter has indicated that he'll turn to Roy Miller — who joined the team from Saprissa this week.
The defensive frailties not withstanding — and, incredibly, everyone on the team's prospective starting backline has already gotten hurt this year — the Timbers are still in good shape. The team around the backline that showed so well against Minnesota should remain unchanged.
To replace Jones in the LA midfield, Onalfo can either move Sebastian Lleget inside and start Ema Boateng on the wing, or insert Baggio Husidic in Jones' place and keep Lleget wide. Jack McBean struggled up top against Dallas, but with Gyasi Zardes injured and Robbie Keane gone, there are precious few options at forward — a potential reprieve the Timbers' suspect central defense.
In the game two weeks ago, LA had all kinds of problems dealing with the Timbers midfield and attack. The Galaxy doesn't have a ton of speed, and is now without Robbie Rogers, Ashley Cole, and the suspended Romeny at fullback. The likes of Sebastian Blanco and Darlington Nagbe should be licking their chops.
90 - Gleeson
4 - Myers
7 - Miller
13 - Olum
32 - Farfan
20 - Guzman
21 - Chara
6 - Nagbe
8 - Valeri (C)
10 - Blanco
9 - Adi
If Ridgewell and Powell are both out, we'll have a very good early test of the theory that the Timbers' front six is good enough that it doesn't matter who plays defense. Regardless, this weakened LA is a good matchup for Portland right now. The Timbers win on the road — for real — 3-2.