Houston Dynamo at Portland Timbers
Saturday, March 18, 2017, 9:30 p.m. CT
Providence Park, Portland, Oregon
Two of the Western Conference’s three perfect teams will look to continue their hot starts to the season on Sunday as the Portland Timbers play host to the Houston Dynamo.
For the Timbers, their early form is no surprise, with pundits around the league citing their fearsome front six – significantly beefed up with the offseason additions of Sebastian Blanco and David Guzman – as the primary reason they 2015 champs will bounce back after missing the postseason in 2016.
Houston’s impressive beginning to the season has come as more of a surprise, with the Dynamo hiring Wilmer Cabrera and significantly overhauling their roster after missing the last three postseasons. However, after wins against two of the four most recent MLS Cup finalists to start 2017, the Dynamo are dreaming big heading into Portland.
After a convincing Opening Weekend victory over Minnesota, the Timbers took a hard-earned intra-conference win at the LA Galaxy in Week 2 to cement their status as one of 2017’s early success stories and possible contenders in the West.
Despite the good feelings, questions abound about the composition of the Timbers’ backline, which has had its depth tested early thanks to injuries to starters Liam Ridgewell and Vytas. Ridgewell is confirmed to miss the bout with Houston, as Caleb Porter cited Portland’s April 2 match against New England as a more likely return date for the Englishman. Both Vytas and Guzman, the latter injured in the Galaxy clash, are day-to-day.
Up front, however, Porter has no such problems, which means the likes of Diego Valeri, Fanendo Adi, Darlington Nagbe and Blanco will get another chance to work their magic.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT – D Gbenga Arokoyo (Achilles tear), D Liam Ridgewell (questionable – foot injury); QUESTIONABLE – D Vytas (calf strain) M David Guzman (separated shoulder)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Jake Gleeson – Alvas Powell, Lawrence Olum, Roy Miller, Vytas – David Guzman, Diego Chara – Sebastian Blanco – Valeri – Darlington Nagbe – Fanendo Adi
Notes: Portland’s 5-1 win over Minnesota in their season opener means they have won six-straight regular season MLS home games, outscoring opponents 16-4 in the process (three clean sheets). … Diego Chara’s goal against LA last weekend snapped a 32-game regular season scoreless streak. His previous goal also came away to LA in October 2015.
The new-look Dynamo are flying high, in large part thanks to the play of their fearsome forward trio of Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto and Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres. Elis and Quioto have made instant impacts on the field and the scoresheet after joining in the offseason, while Torres has turned his red-hot preseason form into a pair of goals to start the regular season, after going the entirety of 2016 without a tally.
The Dynamo have no major injury concerns, meaning they’ll be able to roll out the same lineup they’ve fielded in their first two matches. Beyond the forward three, the Dynamo have counted on stability and consistency in both the midfield and a backline that features three new offseason signings. Nonetheless, they’ll want to avoid the type of late lapses that drew Cabrera's ire following their Week 2 win over Columbus.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: DF Agus (out – left hamstring); GK Joe Willis (questionable – right knee)
Projected Starting XI (4-3-3): Tyler Deric – A.J. DeLaGarza, Adolfo Machado, Leonardo, DaMarcus Beasley – Ricardo Clark, Eric Alexander, Alex – Alberth Elis, Erick Torres, Romell Quioto
Notes: With their win over Columbus, the Dynamo have won back-to-back games for the first time in 39 contests. … Cubo Torres has scored in back-to-back games after making 25 straight regular season appearances without a goal, dating back to October 2014. His last multi-game scoring streak was when he scored in six straight from June 8th-July 20th, 2014 for Chivas USA.
The Dynamo have a slight edge in the 10 all-time meetings between the two clubs, though that is largely based on their success in Houston. At Providence Park the Dynamo have managed just one win, a 2-0 decision during Portland’s first year in the league, in 2011.
- Overall: Portland 3 wins (13 goals) … Houston 4 wins (15 goals) … Ties 3
- At Portland: Portland 3 wins (9 goals) … Houston 1 win (6 goals) … Ties 1
Referee: Allen Chapman
Assistant Referees: Peter Manikowski, Jeffrey Hosking
Fourth Official: Alejandro Mariscal