PORTLAND TIMBERS vs PHILADELPHIA UNION
PROVIDENCE PARK, Portland, Ore.
March 8, 2014 (WEEK 1, MLS Game #7)
7:30 p.m. PT (ROOT-NW; CSN-Phi)
It’s a fascinating interconference matchup ahead to kick off the new season when the Portland Timbers meet Philadelphia Union on Saturday evening at Providence Park. The Timbers laid claim to the Western Conference regular season title a year ago, reaching the MLS Cup Playoffs in their third season, the first under head coach Caleb Porter. Union weren’t able to repeat their playoff performance of 2012 last year, but head coach John Hackworth has retooled their squad for the new campaign.
Coming off a first-ever appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs, the Portland Timbers are looking to build on their success as they open their fourth season in MLS in 2014. Caleb Porter took over the club in 2013 and led the Timbers to their first postseason appearance, engineering a 23-point turnaround in the standings and leading the team to a first-place finish in the Western Conference regular season.
The Timbers concluded their preseason schedule with a 1-1 draw vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the finale of their own Rose City Invitational, ending with a 2-1-4 record.
Here’s the Timbers team: Donovan Ricketts, Jack Jewsbury, Norberto Paparatto, Pa Modou Kah, Michael Harrington, Diego Chara, Diego Valeri (Kalif Alhassan, 62), Will Johnson, Gaston Fernandez, Maximiliano Urruti (Ben Zemanski, 77), Darlington Nagbe
“A lot of other teams have more pieces to manage, to figure out, they’re still tinkering with their systems, still trying to figure out the philosophy they’re going to play, all that stuff,” Porter said. “We’re clear on that, we’re set on that. So the nice thing is we can already start to dig into some concepts, some tactical things that we want to work on instead of trying to figure out our personnel, who’s going to start and all that stuff.”
The finale marked the first time Porter had his nominal first-choice strike force on the field together in the preseason, with Diego Valeri pulling the strings in behind the front three of newcomer Gaston Fern·ndez, Maximiliano Urruti and Darlington Nagbe.
“There’s a lot of flexibility,” Porter said. “From game to game we can really change the pieces in those front four spots to give some different dimensions of the game. That’s exciting for me to tinker with that.” Said Nagbe:”It’s exciting, obviously you can see what those two guys can do, they’re real creative players. And the more they’re in the game I feel like it opens stuff for me.”
For Valeri, the Rose City Invitational was his first preseason action after undergoing offseason surgery for a sports hernia.
“The nice thing is he looks himself,” Porter said. “He’s still getting back in sync. ... Getting him back in a flow and a rhythm with our team is going to take a little bit of time.” Said Valeri: “It’s about the timing. It’s about getting more minutes to play [in] a real game because that’s an important thing. We work hard in training and it’s very similar to a real game, so I think I’m good.”
The Timbers made a couple of additions in the offseason of MLS veterans. Steve Zakuani is close to returning to action after being taken in the re-entry draft from Seattle, and Jorge Villafana was picked up in a deal with Chivas USA.
“[Michael Harrington is] ahead of Jorge at this point (at left back),” Porter said. “But the nice thing is, and the reason we added Jorge, is to have a good one and two guy and hopefully there’s a competition there, because that will make both of them better.”
- Timbers defender Alvas Powell was called in by Jamaica’s national team for its friendlies vs. Barbados and Saint Lucia.
IN: DF Jorge Villafana (12/12/13 - trade from Chivas USA); MF Steve Zakuani (12/12/13 - Re-Entry Stage 1); GK Andrew Weber (1/10/14 - free); FW Gaston Fernandez (1/15/14 - transfer from Estudiantes de La Plata); DF Norberto Paparatto (1/15/14 - transfer from Tigre); DF Bryan Gallego (1/15/14 - Homegrown); MF Schillo Tshuma (1/16/14 - SuperDraft); DF Taylor Peay (2/11/14 - SuperDraft); MF George Fochive (2/25/14 - SuperDraft); MF Aaron Long (2/25/14 - SuperDraft)
OUT: DF David Horst (12/9/13 - option declined); DF Ryan Miller (12/9/13 - option declined); DF Dylan Tucker-Gangnes (12/9/13 - waived); FW Brent Richards (12/9/13 - waived); FW Ryan Johnson (12/9/13 - out of contract); DF Brad Ring (12/9/13 - out of contract); DF Andrew Jean-Baptiste (12/12/13 - traded to Chivas USA); MF Sal Zizzo (12/13/13 - traded to Sporting KC); DF David Horst (12/17/13 - traded to Houston); FW Sebastian Rincon (1/10/14 - loan expired); FW Jose Valencia (1/15/14 - loaned to Club Olimpo); GK Milos Kocic (1/25/14 - retired); DF Mikael Silvestre (1/27/14 - contract terminated)
Philadelphia Union are looking for a return to the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2014, after their bid for a second consecutive postseason trip ended on the season’s final day. John Hackworth returns for his second full season in charge of the club, having guided the club to the playoffs in 2013 after taking over the head coaching reins a third of the way through the season.
Union ended their preparations with a penalty kick shootout victory against the Montreal Impact following a 1-1 draw in the finale of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic.
Hereís the Union team: Zac MacMath; Fabinho, Austin Berry (Aaron Wheeler 80'), Amobi Okugo, Raymon Gaddis; Brian Carroll, Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueira; Cristian Maidana (Zach Pfeffer 85'), SÈbastien Le Toux (Leo Fernandes 72'), Jack McInerney (Danny Cruz 72')
- Union face some real injury concerns entering the new campaign. Fullback Sheanon Williams suffered a quad strain during the Disney tournament and has not yet returned to full training. “Hopefully we’ll have Sheanon available for the weekend but we won’t know until [Wednesday] or even Thursday,” said Hackworth.
As well, Union are missing veteran striker Conor Casey, who did not play in the preseason with a calf strain.
“We clearly miss Conor right now,” Hackworth said. " ... If Conor can play at the same level he played at last year, I would think he’s going to have a similar impact. At the same time, he’s a year older. He’s already carrying an injury right now. He hasn’t played in these preseason games. And that’s a concern. But we still think there’s a lot left in his tank. And our job is to try to get him healthy and see how effective he can be for our team.”
Union made a key addition to their backline, acquiring 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year Austin Berry from the Chicago Fire.”He’s going to have to build some very quick relationships both with Fabinho [at left back] and [center back] Amobi [Okugo],” Hackworth said.
Out of preseason, Hackworth has settled on a first-choice midfield of Brian Carroll, Maurice Edu and Vincent Nogueira in his new-look 4-3-3 scheme. Cristian Maidana is also in the mix with Sebastien Le Toux trying to win down a wide role on the front line.
“There’s certainly a competition right now,” Hackworth said. “But they’re not the only two weere looking at for that spot. That’s a spot we feel like we have real good depth at. And at the same time, no one has solidified that spot right now.”
- There has been another intriguing development in the Union camp where 6-foot-4 Aaron Wheeler ñ who mostly played in the attack during his first season in Philly last year ñ has been deployed as a center back for much of the preseason. “He has really shown rapid growth right now as a central defender,” Hackworth said.
IN: MF Corben Bone (12/12/13 - Re-Entry Stage 1); DF Ethan White (1/14/14 - trade from D.C. United); MF Cristian Maidana (1/15/14 - free transfer); GK Andre Blake (1/16/14 - SuperDraft); MF Maurice Edu (1/27/14 - loan from Stoke City); MF Vincent Nogueira (1/30/14 - transfer from Sochaux); GK Brian Holt (2/3/14 - free); DF Austin Berry (2/14/14 - trade from Chicago)
OUT: GK Oka Nikolov (11/25/13 - waived); MF Greg Jordan (11/25/13 - waived); MF Kleberson (11/25/13 - waived); FW Don Anding (11/25/13 - waived); DF Chris Albright (11/25/13 - retired); MF Michael Farfan (12/23/13 - transferred to Cruz Azul); DF Jeff Parke (1/14/14 - traded to D.C. United)
REFEREE: Hilario Grajeda. SAR (bench): Ian Anderson; JAR (opposite): Baboucarr Jallow; 4th: Baldomero Toledo
MLS Career: 99 games; FC/gm: 24.2; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 18; pens: 14
DISABLED LIST: none
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
ALL-TIME (4 meetings): Timbers 2 wins, 4 goals … Union 0 wins, 1 goal … Ties 2
AT PORTLAND (2 meetings): Timbers 2 wins, 4 goals … Union 0 wins, 1 goal … Ties 0
LAST YEAR (MLS):
7/20: PHI 0, POR 0
- This is the only league meeting between the teams this season.
- The Timbers have never lost to Union in four meetings all-time. Portland has won both home matches in the series, including a 3-1 triumph March 12, 2012 in the last game in the Rose City.
- The teams have played to two scoreless draws in two games at PPL Park.
- Coaches record: Caleb Porter vs. PHI: P1 W0 L0 T1 … John Hackworth vs. POR: P1 W0 L0 T1