The Vancouver Whitecaps will go looking for their third straight win when they take on the Portland Timbers on the weekend, a chance for redemption after dropping their only other home match of the season so far, a 3-1 disappointment against TFC. The Timbers may only have three points after their first three matches, but the Whitecaps will still need to be on their toes.
Eighty Six Forever touched base with Chris Rifer of our SBNation sister blog Stumptown Footy to help shed some light on the match, and the Timbers in general. We talked the Timbers slow start to the season, new faces in the Timbers lineup, and former Timber Pa Modou Kah.
86Forever: what are you thoughts on the timbers start to the season?
Chris Rifer: The beginning of the season has been and is going to continue to be difficult to manage for Caleb Porter. While a lot of attention has been paid to the Timbers' injuries among their All-Stars Diego Valeri and Will Johnson, Porter also has to manage longterm injuries down the depth chart to Ben Zemanski and Michael Nanchoff. It's easy to understand, then, why there were concerns about a slow start in the Rose City. Those concerns are magnified, however, by a history of slow starts in Portland, including last season in which the Timbers entered May with only five points and no wins to their credit.
In light of all that, I think I'd say it's going okay. The Timbers have played three good teams to date and drawn all three, while looking especially good against RSL and strong at times against L.A. Galaxy and on the road in Kansas City. On the whole, the defense has looked solid while the attack has been a little bit more inconsistent. Still, conspicuously absent from the Timbers' 2015 resume to date is a win, and it's hard to celebrate some solid performances too enthusiastically when they aren't accompanied by the full points.
86F: Are there any new faces whitecaps fans should pay attention to?
CR: The most influential new face on the Timbers this year has been Nat Borchers joining Liam Ridgewell in central defense, though he's hardly a new face to ‘Caps fans. Perhaps more important for the Timbers, however, is the performance of Dairon Asprilla, who will likely start on the right side of midfield.
Asprilla is clearly talented and brings pace and directness to the Timbers attack, but he has yet to put all the pieces together for the Timbers. If Asprilla can get on track (which, frankly, I don't expect for at least a few more weeks), he could become a major factor in the Timbers' attack.
86F: Have you been following pa Modou Kah since he joined the 'Caps? Any thoughts on what he brings to Vancouver this season?
CR: After a fairly strong performance in 2013, Kah became a little bit of a sore spot for the Timbers in 2014. Although Pa is an outstanding locker-room presence, his play on the field in 2014 (during which he struggled with recurring Achilles problems) suffered. Kah is certainly an aggressive presence in central defense, and, as such, you'll frequently see him coming well into midfield to win a header.
Unfortunately in 2014, Kah struggled at times with conceding fouls in and around the box and losing track of runners. It's unclear to what extent these issues were caused or exacerbated by Kah's Achilles injuries, but by season's end there were few Timbers fans disappointed to lose Kah despite his impeccable character and charisma.