Match previews / Union

Match Preview: Philadelphia Union vs Portland Timbers

Who: Philadelphia Union vs Portland Timbers

What: MLS Regular Season

Where: Subaru Park, Chester, PA

When: Sunday, May 30th, 7:00pm

Watch: FS1, Fox Deportes (Match will not be available to stream on philadelphiaunion.com)

Whistle: Robert Sibiga

The Philadelphia Union are back in action this weekend with another Sunday evening match.  They will face off against their first Western conference opponent of the the year: the Portland Timbers. These two teams haven’t met in the MLS regular season since May 2019 when the Timbers came to Chester and left with a 3-1 victory. Their most recent matchup came last summer in the semifinal round of the MLS is Back tournament, where the Timbers prevailed 2-1 thanks to goals from Jeremy Ebobisse and Sebastian Blanco.

The MLS Regular season takes an extended break after this weekend to accommodate upcoming international fixtures. With the Timber’s and Union’s next matches not coming until June 19th and June 20th respectively, both teams will be wanting 3 points to carry them over until MLS play resumes again.

Scouting Report: Portland Timbers 

Given the challenges this team has faced in 2021, Timbers fans should be content to see their team sitting at 6th place in the Western Conference with 9 points and 3-3-0 record heading into this weekend’s match. This team has been plagued with injuries, the most recent of which being this absolutely horrendous tackle on Timbers midfielder Andy Polo during last week’s match against the LA Galaxy (Polo will miss the remainder of the 2021 MLS regular season). The team’s stalwart No. 6 Diego Chara has missed time this year with a hamstring injury; defender Larrys Mabiala has been out, also with a hamstring injury, and their starting goalkeeper Steve Clark went down in Week 1 with a thigh injury (and has yet to return).  Above all else, their bonafide star forward Sebastian Blanco still hasn’t returned from the ACL injury that ended his 2020 season last September.

Portland was also one of five MLS teams (including the Union) that had to deal with a congested schedule early on, playing their CONCACAF Champions League fixtures mid-week through the month of April and early May (they were ousted from the CCL competition in the Round of 16, losing to Club America 2-4 on aggregate).

It’s been a ‘next man up’ mentality for this team thus far, and the players that have been able to avoid injury are doing their part.  Forward Felipe Mora and right back Josecarlos Van Ranking were named to this past week’s MLS Team of the Week for their contributions to the Timber’s 3-0 win over a 10-man Galaxy. Midfielder Eryk Williamson has shined so far this year and, as MLSsoccer.com’s Matt Doyle wrote recently about how he is developing into a young star in MLS.

Once this team is back to full strength, especially when Blanco returns, no one should be surprised to see them near the top of the Western Conference as the season progress.

Injury Report:

Out: Sebastian Blanco, Andy Polo, Steve Clark, Jeff Attinella

Questionable: D. Chara, Cristhian Paredes, Larrys Mabiala

Scouting Report: Philadelphia Union

Based on their performances in their 7 MLS matches thus far, one might be surprised to see the Union entering this week’s match holding on to 3rd place in the Eastern Conference with 11 pts and a 3-2-2 record.  This team has not ‘wowed’ anyone who’s watched them, but bland and boring can sometimes yield results.

That’s exactly what this team is doing at the moment: getting results.

Union fans are eagerly waiting for the Boys in Blue to hit their stride and start scoring goals. But for now, it’s their stingy defense that is winning them games and earning them points. The center back duo of Jack Elliot and Jakob Glesnes is arguably one of the most underrated, or at least under appreciated, center back units in MLS right now. Elliot has been consistent from the onset and Glesnes just put in his best performance of this season during last week’s 1-0 win against D.C. United. With Andre Blake looking like he wants to repeat as MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, this team is very difficult to score against right now.

The Union have conceded just 1 goal in their last 4 matches.

As PSP’s Jeremey Lane wrote earlier this week, the Union have yet to hit their high gear offensively.  This team has the weapons to score goals and they’ll certainly need to start finding the back of the net if they want to consider themselves legitimate contenders for a trophy this year.  But with their aggressive, suffocating style of defending, the Union are a tough matchup for nearly every team in MLS.

Injury Report: Out: Ilsinho, Jack de Vries

Key Matchup: Midfield Battle

Portland Timber’s head coach Giovanni Savarese has his work cut out for him to arrange his midfield in a way that can withstand the Union’s aggressive style of defending, which suffocates opponents on the ball and forces turnovers. Eryk Williamson and the rest of the Portland midfielders will need to do their best to connect quick passes and beat the Union press.

Player to Watch: Jamiro Monteiro

With Jose Martinez back, Monteiro returned to the No. 10 position last week and generated the game’s only assist on a beautiful pass over the top of the D.C defense to set-up Przybylko’s goal.  Most Union fans prefer him at the No.8, but he is capable of playing the No. 10 and playing it well. Assuming Jim Curtin doesn’t make any changes to the midfield, look for him to get on the ball often in this match.

Prediction: 2-1 Union

The Union are a tough matchup and their ability to generate turnovers and quickly counter presents a tough challenge for any team, let alone a Portland Timbers team on the road that’s battling injuries.

4 Comments

  1. Dude, spot on.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Is Gadzag going to be there or will he be on international duty?

    • Tim Jones says:

      Jim Curtin’s comments in the excerpts on the website from his press availability indicate Gazdag will be away on International duty. The comment was that they did not want to jeopardize Gazdag’s opportunity to earn his place for EURO 2020 (ppd. to ’21) against France, Portugal and Germany.
      .
      The last match, Germany, is June 23rd. Fifa ranks France 2nd, Portugal 5th, Germany 12th, and Hungary 37th. France and Portugal will visit Budapest. Hungary will visit Munich.

  3. A preview of a Timbers game that doesn’t mention Valeri by name? Consistently one of the top 10 players in MLS and kills the Union every time we play. Also, seems like a genuinely nice guy and fun to watch even as a fan of opposing team. I hope Curtin mentions Valeri in preparing the Union for this game!

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