The Vancouver Whitecaps head into their biggest stretch of the season, as they desperately try and keep their playoff hopes alive. They'll try to do it against their Cascadia Cup rival, the Portland Timbers. Michael Orr from their SBnation blog, Stumptown Footy, stopped by our neck of the woods, to give us his thoughts on the match.
EIGHTYSIXFOREVER: The Timbers seem to have plenty of scoring depth throughout their lineup. Has it been scoring by committee this season?
Michael Orr: Scoring by committee is one way to put it, though it's been a bit more scoring in waves. For example, Rodney Wallace has six goals this season, but for of them came before June. Diego Valeri has four goals in his last seven games but scored just one in his previous eleven. Of Will Johnson's seven goals, six came before July. So while plenty of players have been scoring for Portland, it hasn't exactly been all of them scoring all of the time. That said, it does mean that as many as half a dozen players are more than capable of scoring in any game.
86: How important is the Cascadia Cup to the Timbers?
SF: Caleb Porter said it perfectly after last weekend's win over LA Galaxy: when there's less to play for overall, the Cascadia Cup matches mean more. That seems to be the case for Vancouver this year and was absolutely true of the Timbers last season. With three draws and a loss to this point, Portland would need to win its final two Cup games and have the Whitecaps beat Seattle to pull it off, so the chances are pretty low. If the Cascadia Cup happens along the way to making the playoffs, the Timbers would be more than happy to take it. But if getting results down the stretch does not include retaining the Cup, it won't be a major disappointment. Especially in a season where four of Portland's six Cascadia games have been on the road.
86: Will Johnson is a good Canadian kid. How's he been doing in Portland?
SF: Will Johnson stepped into a perfect situation: he could be a leader on what had been a rudderless team and he would not be required to overexert himself. By that I mean he's paired with Diego Chara in central midfield, so those responsibilities are shared. Additionally, because Johnson plays below Diego Valeri, scoring is not really required of him either. Though he is among the team's leaders in goals, several have come via penalties or free kicks. For a team that was seeking direction, a player like Johnson is a great fit, and he has excelled in the captain's role. It's possible he could have eventually become this type of player at Real Salt Lake but by bringing him in when they did, the Timbers have immediately benefitted from his blossoming into really solid player.
Projected Lineup: XI: Ricketts; Harrington, Futty, Kah, Jewsbury; W Johnson, Chara; Wallace, Valeri, Nagbe; Urruti