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Match Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Portland Timbers

Time to get Cascadia-y

MLS: Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Match Information

When: Saturday, August 10th, 11 pm EST/8 pm PST

Where: Providence Park, Portland

TV: TSN 1/4

Streaming: MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US

What to watch for: Vancouver

Fresh off a 2-1 win over FC Cincinnati, the Caps will be thrown into the Cascadia fires, as they travel to Portland to take on the Timbers. A Fredy Montero goal lifted the Caps by Portland at BC Place earlier this season (a match I quite frankly forgot happened). It was the second straight victory for the Caps against their rivals, with a 2-1 win in Portland to snap the Timbers’ 15-game unbeaten streak last August.

The Caps have a couple roster moves that will be reflected Saturday, with Felipe (who scored the game winner against FC Cincinnati) getting shifted to DC United earlier this week. That comes on top of last week’s release of Lucas Venuto. It remains to be seen whether new signing Michaell Chirinos will make an appearance at all; it stands to reason that its too soon but Chirinos is presumably match fit after playing the Clausura in Mexico for Lobos BUAP. Given the Whitecaps’ shortage of attacking options, it is possible he makes a cameo. Tosaint Ricketts, announced as a depth signing Friday morning, won’t arrive at the club until Monday and will thus not be available.

The comings and goings of the transfer window still would allow Marc Dos Santos to deploy the 4-3-2-1 that he has favored in recent matches. The big question will be whether Felipe’s departure paves the way for the return of Jon Erice to the midfield. Despite being one of the steadier performers this season, it seemed Erice was on the outs with MDS and some thought he might be moved before the transfer window slammed shut. Instead, he remains with the club and outside of Andy Rose, is probably the only one who can play alongside Russell Teibert and Hwang In-Beom in midfield.

The Caps will remain without Doneil Henry and Lass Bangoura, likely clearing the way for more play time for Derek Cornelius and Theo Bair, although it is possible Chirinos could sneak some minutes as well at RW (he can play on both sides). It will also be interesting whether MDS favors Joaquin Ardaiz or Fredy Montero up top after (or if it matters at this point, quite frankly).

What to watch for: Portland

The Portland Timbers team which the Whitecaps will face Saturday is in a very different place than the one they beat earlier this season. For one, the Timbers have climbed from the bottom of the Western Conference to within two points of a playoff spot (with two games in hand on FC Dallas).

Buoyed by the prospect of a 10-match long run of home matches in renovated Providence Park, the Timbers have also benefited from perhaps the shrewdest mid-season acquisition in MLS this season: Brian Fernandez, who arrived from Nexaca after scoring a goal every other game for the Liga MX side. He has continued that form in MLS, bagging seven goals in six matches for Portland and almost single-handedly rejuvenating their playoff prospects. He has also helped boost Jeremy Ebobisse, who has started to find form as well.

Part of Fernandez’s talent is his ability to play as a traditional center forward or more as a winger, using both pace and technical ability to create chances. This could come in handy against a Whitecaps side likely to bunker and hit back on the counter.

It is possible Portland uses the match as a chance to rest a couple members of their midfield, specifically Larrys Mabiala. Other changes could be coming after Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup loss to Minnesota, although Diego Valeri was rested for that game which means he will likely be back in the starting lineup against Vancouver.

Who wins?

This is a pretty important match for Portland as they attempt to gain ground on the teams in front of them in the playoff race. It also kicks off a long home-stand that will basically define the run-in to their season. I don’t really see any reason why the Timbers won’t enter this game focused and sharp, despite the midweek loss.

Vancouver, meanwhile, does have a bit of momentum after two straight results. But I don’t see any way they’ll be able to continue that trend against Portland absent sitting deep and relying on the counter attack. Getting Jon Erice back in the midfield will help but ultimately this feels like the kind of match that could sideways quickly, much like the LAFC game. The Caps haven’t coped well with attackers of Brian Fernandez’s quality and Ali Adnan will need to find his feet quickly to adapt.

I see this as a 2-0 win for Portland