It seems like just yesterday the Whitecaps were embarrassed by the Portland Timbers 3-0 at BC Place, but maybe that's because it's still fresh in my nightmares whenever I go to sleep. In any case, the Whitecaps will surely want to avoid another outcome like that when these two teams meet again on Saturday. To take a further look at the Timbers' side of things, we touched base with Michael Orr of our SBNation sister blog, Stumptown Footy.
86Forever: When these two teams last met, The Timbers were able to take control in the second half, en route to a 3-0 win. Do you see the Timbers switching their game plan up much?
Michael Orr: I do not.
The system that worked so well at BC Place, namely using Jorge Villafana and Alvas Powell out wide and attacking aggressively, has become the default for Portland over the past few weeks. While it has not worked exactly as well as it did in its debut in Vancouver, that is still all but guaranteed to be the look Caleb Porter will employ on Saturday afternoon.
That said, I don't think there's much chance of another 3-0 win.
86F: The Timbers have given up 48 goals this season, including 5 the past two games. What's going on there?
MO: Mostly the defense has been plagued by individual errors all season long. Liam Ridgewell has been an improvement since his arrival, but even he was smoked by Brad Evans in Portland's 4-2 loss to the Seattle Sounders several weeks ago. As the season has gone on and the Timbers have been below that infamous red line, the necessity for more open attacking play has left an already struggling defense to fend more for themselves.
Combining that with the drop in quality from Donovan Ricketts and the Timbers simply aren't able to keep other teams from scoring very often. Apart from two games against the soon-to-be contracted Chivas USA, only in the 3-0 win against the Whitecaps have the Timbers kept a clean sheet all season.
86F: Are the Timbers going to make the playoffs, and if so, why?
My cop out answer is that it all depends on Vancouver, both in this game and in the Whitecaps' more difficult path to close the season. An answer with some guts is no, the Timbers will not make the playoffs and the reason is that they simply cannot prevent other teams from scoring. And it's not like Portland's road to an away play-in game is particularly easy either, especially if they can't do better than draws against San Jose Earthquakes.
However, if they do make it, it will be because Diego Valeri is a superior player in MLS and the defense is able to cobble together a few decent performances at the right time. The Timbers absolutely have the talent to be among the top five teams in the Western Conference but as has been proven over the first 28 games of this season, having that talent and employing it to positive effect are two very different things.
Predicted starting 11: GK Ricketts, LB Villafana, CB Ridgewell, CB Kah, RB Powell, DM Johnson, DM Chara, LM Wallace, AM Valeri, RM Nagbe, F Adi