Timbers Invade Montreal

Coming off their first win in four weeks, the Portland Timbers visit Stade Saputo this Sunday, July 27th at 5 PM PT to face the struggling Montreal Impact. This is the first meeting between the two clubs since March 9th, 2013 when the Impact defeated Portland 2-1. With the Impact in the midst of a four game losing streak, the Timbers have a good shot at earning three points on the road and inching ever closer to that final playoff spot.

Big news last week was the debut of Portland’s latest designated player, Liam Ridgewell. The English defender played quite well despite a few early mistakes and helped hold Colorado to a single goal. Perhaps this week he and either Norberto Paparatto who is back from injury, or (slight cringe) veteran Danny O’Rourke, can earn the club’s second set of clean sheets in 2014. Anything that the Timbers can get from the backline is going to make a difference in the playoff hunt.

Outside of a possible return for Papa, I really hope to see La Gata start in place of Steve Zakuani. Zak sure can move his feet and loves to cut inside at the top of the box for a shot, but that’s about it. Despite his decent showing last week there’s just something special about Gaston Fernandez, Diego Valeri, and Fanendo Adi playing together. This gives up speed on the wing, but Zakuani rarely seems to use the space that he and the right back find. If Jorge Villafana can return from injury on Sunday the lack of speed on the wing should be mitigated. Plus, Rodney Wallace can always sub on if needed.

Montreal is in a nose-dive. They’re dead last in the MLS, have just 19 goals through 19 matches, earn an average of only .74 points per game, and just played in Salt Lake on Thursday. Things don’t look very good for them. What does all this add up to? A classic trap game. Caleb Porter needs to keep his club from getting complacent and Liam Ridgewell needs to lead his backline in stopping Jack McInerney, Andres Romero, and Marco Di Vaio. No matter how poor they’ve been of late, these guys can score in bunches and will if given too much room.

The only absence that impacting Montreal this week (rimshot) is the suspension of Issey Nakajima-Farran for a harsh, studs-up tackle on Salt Lake defender Chris Schuler. In his place will be Justin Mapp who played 28 minutes on Wednesday. Jack Mac should also be rested after subbing on in the 77th minute in Utah.


Contain Andres Romero. Despite failing to influence any goal on Wednesday, Romero constantly poked his way through the right side of Salt Lake’s midfield. If Jack Mac tracks back to defend he could lay the ball off to Romero in a dangerous position.

Look to score off set pieces. The Impact are similar to the Timbers in that set piece defending is a big weakness. Diego Valeri, La Gata, and Will Johnson are all threats from direct free kicks and Fanendo Adi is that big man in the middle on corners. I’m calling an Adi header as one of Portland’s goals in Montreal.

Projected Lineups:

Portland Timbers: Donovan Ricketts; Michael Harrington, Liam Ridgewell, Norberto Paparatto, Michael Harrington; Diego Chara, Will Johnson; Steve Zakuani, Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe; Fanendo Adi

Montreal Impact: Evan Bush; Krzysztof Krol, Heath Pearce, Matteo Ferrari, Hassoun Camara; Justin Mapp, Felipe Martins, Patrice Bernier, Andres Romero; Marco Di Vaio, Jack McInerney

(image courtesy of David Blair)