For the second time this season, the Portland Timbers take on Chivas USA at the StubHub Center on Saturday evening (7:30pm PT, ROOT SPORTS, 750 The Game / La Pantera 940). Find out all you need to know about the opposition.
What can the Timbers expect?
Back when these teams met in May, there was a noticeable gulf between them – at least in confidence – but that has changed now and the Timbers will be on full alert. The Goats have picked up big wins over Toronto FC, New York Red Bulls, and D.C. United recently and their confidence levels have shot up as a result, which makes them dangerous.
Part of the reason why they are now a better team is the change of coaches that saw Jose Luis Real Casillas take over from Jose Luis Sanchez Sola in May. They are now set up with a 4-4-2 formation that allows them to be tighter in defensive situations and attack as a unit when pushing forward. The Timbers can expect them to play quick, counter-attacking soccer.
Where are they most vulnerable?
Even though Chivas has done a lot of admirable work over recent months to shore up their backline, it is still something that can be improved on. The arrival of United States international Carlos Bocanegra has been huge and his partnership with Bobby Burling in center back is key, but the team has some questions at the outside back position – on both sides.
On the flanks, they have often used rookie Carlos Alvarez and Bryan de la Fuente, who are excellent when bombing forward but do not always provide enough cover in defense. This allows opposition teams to pile pressure on Chivas’ outside backs, who have been caught of position too many times and should be targeted by Timbers’ widemen, like Rodney Wallace, Kalif Alhassan or Darlington Nagbe.
Who are their main threats?
Timbers head coach Caleb Porter will have done his homework on Chivas and he will be fully aware of the recent form of striker Erick Torres, who is the team’s top scorer this season. But cutting out the service to the in-form goalscorer is the best way to keeping him quiet, so stepping up in midfield and exerting pressure on them is one of the things that the Timbers can do.
Other players to be aware of are Alvarez, Eric Avila, Julio Morales and Tristan Bowen, who all bring something different to the team but can be equally as dangerous. And between the posts, they have one of the best goalkeepers in the league in Dan Kennedy, who is an agile shot-stopper that can be relied upon to make big saves if their defensive wall collapses.
Head coach: Jose Luis Real Casillas
Brought in to steady the Chivas ship in May, this 61-year-old coach is new to the league having spent the bulk of his career in Mexico. However, he has adapted well to MLS and transformed the fortunes of the LA-based team by bringing an organization to their defense, steel to their midfield, and creativity to their attack – and the results reflect that good work.
Star Player: Erick Torres
With seven goals to his name this season, the man known as Cubo has been a revelation for the Goats. Still only 20 years old, the Guadalajara, Mexico native is one of the hardest-working forwards in the league. Always on the move, he peels off the shoulder of the last defender, drifts out wide, drops into midfield, but his biggest strength is his finishing, which has been red hot of late.
One To Watch: Edgar Mejia
Charging around the field like a bull that has just seen red, Mejia is a player who covers an incredible amount of ground and can be relied on to provide cover to his team mates at key times. Best when operating in midfield, this 25-year-old uses the ball well with his short passing and can link play effortlessly. But his versatility means that he can also help out in defense.
What happened when the teams last met?
The Timbers recorded a 3-0 victory at JELD-WEN Field back on May 12 with goals from Rodney Wallace, Diego Valeri and Will Johnson. It was a game that saw Porter’s men unload 19 shots – seven of which hit the target – and control 59 per cent possession as they dominated from start to finish in an extremely impressive performance.
What did the Timbers learn from that game?
When on top against a team, it is not always easy to close it out and get a result as the opposition can drop deeper and become more defensive. But the persistence that the Timbers showed in continuing to attack was encouraging and the stats stacked up in their favor with 36 crosses, 12 corners earned, 105 successful passes in the final third of the pitch, and a succession of shots on goal.
What did the coaches have to say at the time?
Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter
“What we’re pleased about is that we are performing well, we’re getting good performances out of our players individually and collectively. We’re not where we want to be yet, which is what makes it scary – we could be even better.”
Former Chivas USA head coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola
“We knew it was going to be a tough game and my team played well, but it was simply not enough. The atmosphere [in Portland] is great, it’s exactly what the world of soccer needs.”
How has Chivas fared since then?
Chivas has played 18 games since last coming up against the Timbers and while consistency remains a problem, they have made some noticeable improvements, most notably in the fewer chances they are giving up. In fact, they have recorded three clean sheets since playing the Timbers last and that should stand to them going into this rematch.
Did You Know?
Midfielder Gabriel Farfan has a twin brother, Michael, who also plays in MLS, with Philadelphia Union and they played together before Gabriel was traded to Chivas USA earlier this season.