Updated: Jul 28
Portland will be looking to turn around a poor start to the season that saw only one win in their first three games, not quite what the perennial title contenders will have hoped for. On the other hand, Atlanta United will be hoping to continue an incredible run of form that has us sitting at the top of the east, currently. But to do so Atlanta will most likely have to get through a low block. Portland tends to like playing on the counter even with a full-strength team but especially considering their trouble with injuries, finally it's not us, the Timbers will be looking to sit deep and play awful soccer.
This will be an important test for the Five Stripes because in the past the team has had trouble cracking the code to beat a team willing to throw a wet blanket on the game. This season will be one of the first times we will come into a game against a low block on the back of a good streak of form and with a lot of confidence, though. So hopefully Atlanta will be able to get the ball into Almada in between the lines and from there the impotence will be on the World Cup winner to either shoot or play a good ball for someone (hopefully Gigi!).
Looking At Rosters
Atlanta and Portland will both be having selection headaches tomorrow, but for very different reasons. Gonzalo Pineda will be looking to find the perfect formula to incorporate all of his stars, while Giovanni Savarese looks to put together a team sheet of 11 guys who aren't injured.
Pineda will most likely be happy with the past result against Charlotte, a resounding 3-0 win in which Wiley contributed to all 3 goals which surely secures his spot, and will be keeping the same lineup other than potentially Sosa returning after his suspension and Rossetto being out with a hamstring injury. The system puts a lot of emphasis on off-the-ball movement and playing through our star 10 (definitely going to Europe this summer by the way). Who will then be tasked with playing the ball to the men running into space, whether that be Gutman, Lennon, Araujo, Wiley, or hopefully Gigi?
Looking at Portland the options are far more bleak. They are missing a host of players to injuries including Felipe Mora, Sebastian Blanco, David Ayala, Dairon Asprilla, Yimmi Chara, Christhian Paredes, and Evander. Eric Miller is also out as an excused absence, most likely the possible birth of his child. The most notable people on the unfortunate list are Evander who Portland picked up from Midtjylland as a very good 10 with good experience in Europe, the veteran Sebastian Blanco who has played over 500 games for Portland, another veteran in Yimmi Chara, and Felipe Mora who put up good stats up top for Portland in 2020 before playing only 7 games last year and none so far this season.
Looking at who Portland does have, though, some of their more dangerous starters are going to be fullbacks Claudio Bravo and Juan Mosquera, attacker Santiago Moreno, and potentially new signing Franck Boli who is a striker joining the Timbers from Hungarian league leaders Ferencvaros. They will be setting up similarly to in their most recent 2-1 loss to St. Louis City.
Looking at the past games Atlanta holds a slight advantage with 2 wins, 2 draws, and 1 loss--including an MLS cup final win. And so far in the season Atlanta holds an advantage with a 2-1-0 record compared to a 1-0-2 record for Portland, to be fair two losses to LAFC and St. Louis make sense now as they are the two top teams in the Western Conference. Despite this, I still am feeling confident in Atlanta to pull out the win, a 3-1 win to be exact. Araujo will score in the 15th minute, and an incisive assist from Almada lets him get in behind and score. Then Portland will have to play more open allowing our wingers to get up and down the field and Wiley will cut the ball back for a Gigi goal in the 35th minute. Portland will then make some halftime changes and will catch us off guard early in the second half *Bernardeschi* and Moreno will score a mediocre goal. Then Gutman will score the last goal for Atlanta in the 80th minute. He will run into unmarked space in between Mosquera and Zuparic and beat the keeper from close range.