MLS is back Sunday night and we begin the season with a bang, as we host the Portland Timbers.
I talk with Timm Higgins, of Stumptown Footy, about all things Portland. Here’s what he had to say about the opposition.
1. With Darlington Nagbe now in Atlanta, who do you look for in the middle of the park? Who’s that link between offense and defense?
That’s the million dollar question, he’s a player you just can’t replace. He was the engine in the offence, doing the link up play and providing for the likes of Deigo Valeri and company.
This year, I’m not sure who’s going to fill that role. It could turn out to be Cristhian Paredes who was acquired in the off season, though he is a bit young at just 19 years-old and that might be a lot to ask of him early on. I think it’s a role that early on will be up for grabs and it doesn’t help that Chara most likely won’t start right away as he’s only seen limited action during the pre-season.
2. There’s a new man in charge of the Timbers - Giovanni Savarese. What has he brought to the Timbers that Caleb Porter didn’t?
I think time will be the only way to tell. So far, we’ve only had pre-season and I liked what I saw. Gio comes off as a bit more relaxed than Porter. But as far as the rest goes, I need to see some regular season matches to get a better picture. I do think he brings a bit more of a tactical awareness to the squad that wasn’t there before, and this is something that Gio has been known for in the past. He’s also brought more youth to the squad than Porter, and youth that are going to get more playing time than Porter would have ever given out. Our core is aging, but the youth is strong and Savarese is known to be good with youth and won’t hesitate to play them if they deserve the minutes.
This one thing I personally like than Porter, who hesitated to give minutes to either Farfan or Ebobisse. With Vytas on the shelf with a hamstring injury it’ll be Farfan starting in his place, so he’ll be seeing significant minutes. As for Ebobisse, he finds himself as the third option coming off the bench for Adi.
3. Who should we keep an eye on? Has there been anyone, aside from the usual suspects, who’s made an impact in preseason that you weren’t quite expecting?
Oh that’s easy, Swedish forward Samuel Armenteros - he had an outstanding preseason and surprised a lot of people. He could actually push Adi for minutes this season and will most likely be his direct back up. Armenteros has Serie A experience, and looked good on and off the ball this preseason. Armenteros, Farfan and Andy Polo looked good during the preseason though how that will translate to the regular season has yet to be seen.
I think it would be in the league’s best interest to no sleep on the Timbers, even if most have picked Portland to be an underdog at best.
Predicted starting XI: Gleeson, Farfan, Ridgewell, Mabiala, Powell, Olum, Guzman, Blanco, Valeri, Asprilla, Adi