Preview & Prediction: Portland Timbers @ San Jose Earthquakes
While the Portland Timbers (0-1d-3) dropped another three points against the Los Angeles Galaxy last Sunday, the on-field performance was much-improved from the previous two matches. They will visit the San Jose Earthquakes (0-0D-4), another team hungry for points, on Saturday. Kickoff at Avaya Stadium is scheduled for 5:00 PM on Root Sports NW (local) or ESPN+ (national).
Here’s a quick reminder where we stand in the schedule. The Timbers have eight more road matches before the home opener against LAFC on June 1st.
4/6 @ San Jose
4/13 @ FC Dallas
4/20 @ Columbus Crew SC
4/27 @ Toronto FC
5/4 @ Real Salt Lake
5/10 @ Vancouver Whitecaps FC
5/15 @ Houston Dynamo
5/25 @ Philadelphia Union
The Timbers need to beat San Jose. It’s that simple. If Portland doesn’t get a result against the worst team in the league, they may find themselves getting dragged through this stretch of poor form until June.
It’s no secret that San Jose is bad. They have zero points and a goal difference of -12 through their first four matches, three of which have been at home.
It’s also no secret that the Timbers are bad. Portland hasn’t earned a point since the snowstorm against Colorado, and it has been just as long since someone not named Jeremy Ebobisse has scored a goal.
San Jose has been lining up in an interesting 4-1-4-1 with Chris Wondolowski as the focal point up top. The Timbers will likely be able to dominate the ball in this match, meaning Giovanni Savarese’s formation will probably not feature five defensive players. Switching back to a 4-2-3-1 may be the more proactive approach, whereas the 5-3-2 was more of a reactionary measure designed to contain Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
That being said, Savarese may stick with the 5-3-2 formation that has been most effective thus far, and having the wing backs push up the field even more.
It is doubtful that the Timbers will use five defenders to contain Wondolowski the same way they (almost) did with Zlatan, and the return of usual-starter Larrys Mabiala from suspension means neither Julio Cascante nor Claude Dielna will be needed in a four-defender formation.
The improvement of Bill Tuiloma has been one of the few positive developments from the past two matches, and it’s safe to say he will have starting spot at center back on Saturday.
The best news coming out of Carson is that the rest of the starting personnel seem to be obvious: Right wing back Jorge Moreira had a solid debut, and his attacking poise can definitely be an emerging threat for the Timbers going forward; Ebobisse starting over Lucas Melano should not even be questioned at this point; and the return of Diego Chará closed most of the gaps in midfield.
The Timbers are a better team than San Jose. There’s no reason Savarese should drop points in this match. Avaya Stadium is by no means a fortress and the Timbers have no more suspensions or injuries, or snowstorms to deal with or blame. Look for the Timbers to get on the front foot in this match and be hungrier for attacking power than in past matches, as well as patch up defensive inconsistencies.
Prediction: Portland 2, San Jose 0