The Portland Timbers will make their first of three trips to Texas this year to face FC Dallas on Matchday 6.
Currently sitting in the final series playoffs spot through five weeks of MLS play, the Timbers are still in search of a second win since their season-opening victory back on February 27. Following a string of three straight loses in March, Portland was able to rescue a point in a scoreless draw over the weekend against the LA Galaxy, earning their 100th shutout in MLS regular season play. The club now travels to the Lone Star State for an April 1st encounter with 5th place FC Dallas, in search of their first road points of the season.
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For their part, FC Dallas struggled over the weekend: a 2-1 loss at LAFC placed them on a 2-1-2 record heading into April. In a strange coincidence, both Dallas and Portland have registered points against the LA Galaxy, victories over Kansas City, and losses to LAFC. The Timbers at 1-1-3, are only a win's-worth of points behind Dallas in the Western Conference standings.
The Texas tea
For the first time this season, Portland goes on the road to Texas. With stops in Houston and Austin still ahead in 2023, Dallas provides an opportunity to test the team's resilience after ending their three-loss skid last Saturday.
Weather forecasts predict a warm atmosphere on Saturday, with temperatures in the high 70's. Not only will Giovanni Savareses' men face the Frisco humidity, but also a club eager to rebound from defeat. FC Dallas, boasting USMNT forwards Jesus Ferreira and Paul Arriola, veterans Sebastian Lletget and Jesus Jimenez, and head coach Nico Estevez, are sure to challenge PTFC.
In two matches at home, FC Dallas has recorded two wins with a +3 goal differential. Jesus Ferreria and Argentine forward Alan Velasco have both scored in each game, the only players to have netted for the Frisco club at home so far.
Portland will also reunite with its first true homegrown player, defender Marco Farfan, who grew up in Gresham, Oregon. Farfan debuted in MLS in 2017 after a year at Timbers2, and he participated in 89 matches for Portland between Timbers2 and the first team. He was traded in 2020 to LAFC and then last year to FC Dallas, where he has started 32 of 34 games last year and all five games this season so far.
With several starters taking time off to recover from injuries, the Timbers' early-season woes could be attributed to the injury crunch. In the match against the Galaxy, goalkeeper David Bingham, who had been the player of the match through his 89 minutes of play, had to leave the field with an apparent hamstring injury. This is yet another setback for Portland's availability roster, with Yimmi Chara, Cristhian Paredes, and Evander all suffering injuries in previous matches that have forced them to miss games.
But there is hope on the horizon. Recoveries and returns to training indicate that reinforcements could soon be on the way. Players like Evander, Dairon Asprilla, and David Ayala have been involved in training this week and could potentially return to the field as soon as this weekend. In addition, newly signed forward Franck Boli arrived in the Rose City last Thursday and has been familiarizing himself with the squad in preparation for a potential debut.
Timbers looking to find their groove
FC Dallas has punished opponents seven times over their first five games, with Jesus Ferreira responsible for three of those goals. The Timbers have seen five goals come from five different players, leaving room for someone to step up and take the reins of the goalscoring duties.
Pointless on the road in two attempts this season, Giovanni Savarese and his coaching staff must navigate a developing roster of match-fit players to set the best 11 on the field against Dallas.
Juan David Mosquera quickly established himself as one of Portland's key players, and he was rewarded with a call-up to the Colombian national team for their Asia tour over last weekend. His absence was felt in the Timbers' stalemate with the LA Galaxy at Providence Park, but the point was well received. His return could propel the club to find the stride they had in the season-opener.
As some players recover from injuries over the next few weeks, others are stepping into the open roles to defend the green and gold. Diego Gutierrez had his first start in MLS on Saturday, and put in a solid full-90 shift on the left wing. Defender Pablo Bonilla received the nod for starting right-back and looked confident in his 2023 home debut. Eric Miller saw his first minutes of action with SCUSA after coming on for Bonilla in the 67th minute in an effort to secure the clean sheet. Homegrown Tega Ikoba looked menacing in his 15-minute stint towards the end of the match, buoyed by his debut MLS goal the week prior. He actively participated in some exciting attacks that nearly resulted in the match-opener for Portland.