Form goes right out the window in derby games, but Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers head into their latest Cascadia Cup clash heading in different directions in the standings.
The Whitecaps have made it six points out of six in their two Cascadia derbies so far this season. A further win at Piggy Park and there’s pretty much one hand on this year’s trophy.
Just as it always should be.
FORM GUIDE :
The Whitecaps have been on fire recently, and the winning streak all started with a win against Portland on May 7th. The ‘Caps will be looking to continue this trend. They seem to get fired up for these Portland games, as they climb up the standings, a win here will do wonders to show this was not ‘luck’ swinging back to them.
Portland are having a tough go of it right now. Ever since that loss to the ‘Caps, the Timbers have been on a three game losing streak, it seems we took their luck. They will want to get it back when the Whitecaps roll into Providence Park. It is a tale of two teams, one struggling to right the ship, and one looking to steam ahead. Who will come out on top?
TACTICS AND PROJECTED LINE-UPS :
It should be a cracking match-up, as with any Cascadia game. The Timbers may have Fanendo Adi and Diego Chara out. They are two big players for Portland, figuratively and literally. Adi is their leading goalscorer and is a big man who can hold up play for the pacy wingers or play the ball to the creative midfield of Diego Valeri or Darlington Nagbe.
Chara is a huge defensive midfield presence and with him missing Jack Jewsbury may have to step in. He is not the same calibre of player that Chara is. Chara is a beast at winning balls, while Jewsbury has given away some sloppy turnovers and could be a position that the Whitecaps try and exploit.
The Timbers have a very solid defence in Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell. However recently, especially in the last Vancouver game, back-up keeper Jake Gleeson, has been exposed. He can make amazing saves, and then let in a howler. The Whitecaps proved they just need to keep knocking on the door and something will find a way through. Look for the ‘Caps to test Gleeson at every possible opportunity on Sunday.
With the possible holes in the Portland line up, this could be a very winnable game for Vancouver. Especially now that it appears we have more than one way to try and win a game.
Injuries will dictate who play up front for this one. Blaz Perez, Erik Hurtado and Kekuta Manneh are all good to go. Octavio Rivero returned to training on Wednesday but may not be at full fitness yet. Will the ‘Caps try and expose the Timbers in the air as they did in Vancouver with Blas Peres up front? Or will they try to expose the Timbers with pace using Manneh and Hurtado, who were brilliant in the game against TFC?
Fraser Aird will unfortunately be suspended due to the red card in Toronto. He has been looking great in the last few games and will be sorely missed. The question will be who steps in? Will Jordan Smith move in, or shall Tim Parker slide out and allow Pa-Modou Kah to step in the central defender position?
For me it is the second option. Kah seems to love these games, and he can bring more intensity to the field. But would we be sacrificing some attacking abilities of Smith? Yes, but considering how our attacking corp has been doing recently we may not need to worry about that and from what Smith has shown, he has been more of defensive liability than anything. The rest of the defensive core can should stay the same.
Considering Portland like to try to play through the middle, and sometimes leave their fullbacks exposed, Vancouver could put Manneh off to the side again. However, putting him centrally will force Portland to respect his speed and sit deeper or risk being eviscerated by the counter attacks. When Manneh plays in the centre he has a greater ability to dribble out and deform any defensive shape teams have. Considering how well he played against TFC, I don’t think that would be a big issue.
Portland won’t concede as much space in the wings for Pedro Morales to operate as he did against TFC. He may also have problems defending on an island against Portland’s fullbacks and wingers. I would move him back to the more central attacking position. Have Manneh start above him, and move Hurtado to the wing. Although we could just go back to the normal Manneh on the wing, but where would be the controversy in that?!
The rest should really be the same. Russell Teibert came back from injury in a big game and showed he is still his pesky self. He always loves the rivalry games and I would start him and Matias Laba in the defensive midfielder positions once more.
Should be a wonderful rollercoaster Cascadia Cup game.
THREE QUESTIONS :
Will Pedro Morales drop back into the deeper role beside Matias Laba or be back as the offensive lynchpin?
After last week’s heroics up top, will Kekuta Manneh stay there or return to the wing?
Can the Whitecaps’ forwards keep finding ways to score?
AFTN’S MAN TO WATCH :
Diego Valeri. The Argentine playmaker can make things happen with his passing, and dead-ball speciality. The Whitecaps can’t give him any space to play and get the Timbers going.
THE VIEW FROM 202 CREW’S PREDICTIONS :
Dan 2-1 – Smash and grab for the ‘Caps
Joe 1-1 – Rivero to score