The Portland Timbers face off against conference foes Nashville SC on Wednesday, August 3 at Providence Park (7:30pm PT, TICKETS, FOX 12 PLUS). Here's what you need to know before you go.
1. It's a six point game
There are six points on the line on Wednesday night—not just three. A win would mean three points for us, and three denied to a Western Conference opponent only one point ahead of us in standings. At a press conference this week, head coach Giovanni Savarese recognized how much was at stake.
"When it comes to a team that is in our conference, especially a team that is [...] in the same area as we are on the table, it becomes even more crucial," he said. "Especially at home. There's so many things that make this game a game that we have to come with the right mentality. We have to put a lot of emphasis to make sure the guys arrive the best possible way. And we know it's gonna be a tough match."
2. We'll have some key absences and big opportunities.
We already know Diego Chara and Dairon Asprilla will be sitting out this game for yellow card accumulation. And the team announced this week that forward Felipe Mora will undergo a season-ending surgery. (We wish him all the best and the speediest recovery.)
It's also a busy week with three games against Western Conference foes jammed into 7 days. Coach Gio may keep some familiar legs on ice, looking ahead to Saturday's game against FC Dallas (7:30pm PT, TICKETS, FOX 12 PLUS). The good news is it's an opportunity for other players to step up in a big way—and our bench has shown itself quite capable of doing so this season.
"We have a plan in place and the guys are ready to play," Savarese said.
3. Portland's defense will need to learn lessons from the Minnesota United game.
Last Saturday's barn-burning 4-4 tie at Minnesota United was an electric game. Midfielder Sebastián Blanco led the Timbers in a furious, frenzied charge out of deep 3-1 hole. The final score, even after Minnesota's late equalizer, felt vindicating given the bleak outlook at halftime.
But Savarese knows that four goals conceded is four too many, and the defense will need to tighten the screws for Nashville's quick-transition attack.
"We should have been better defensively," he said. "Those moments that Minnesota found a quick transition offensively, or when they put a cross in, like [on] the fourth goal.... sometimes we did not make the right decisions. That's one area that we talked to the players [about], we showed them video... We are working to correct those situations... Attacking wise, we found the goals. Defensively, we should've been better in handling those moments."