The San Jose Earthquakes face a win or get an early vacation situation on Decision Day in Portland. They are going up with an excellent team that may be missing some critical components on Sunday. Let’s take a look.
Manager: Giovanni Savarese
Current Record: 13-13-7 6th in Western Conference
Last Five Matches: L-L-L-D-D
Home Stadium: Providence Park
Since taking over for the injured Jeff Attinella, Clark has been one of the best goalkeepers in MLS. He has given up 24 goals in his 23 starts and has a save percentage of 77%. Those are scary numbers for an offense that has only scored three goals since the beginning of September. Cristian Espinoza, who has assisted in five of Chris Wondolowski’s 14 goals this season, will have to bring out some of the magic he found in the summer. Players like Danny Hoesen and Vako can get multiple goals in the net against any goalkeeper, but the question will be if they could get shots on target to pressure Clark.
Jorge Villafaña, Bill Tuiloma, Larrys Mabiala, Jorge Moreira
Villafaña and Moreira are the two defenders that go up the wings when Portland has the ball to bolster the offense. Villafaña heads up the dangerous left side of the Timbers, where he has contributed 3 assists this season. Moreira has two goals to go along with two assists on the right side, and when Portland doesn’t have the ball, he has been one of their best defenders. Tuiloma and Mabiala are tasked with disrupting any opponent’s fast-break opportunities.
Diego Chara, Cristhian Paredes
Chara is a legend both in Portland and across the league. His scoresheet doesn’t immediately jump out at you as such a great player. But, just like an offensive lineman in the NFL, he doesn’t need stats to prove his value. Few players in MLS can disrupt an opponent’s attack and quickly transition his squad to go on the offensive like Chara.
Paredes is a good defensive complement to Chara, but this season, his offensive ability has shown up. So far this season, he has four goals and two assists, which makes sense because the players that play above him take up so much of the opposing team’s attention.
Marvin Loria, Jeremy Ebobisse, Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco
This is a powerful group that has done just enough this season to keep the Timbers at the edge of the playoff line. They are going to be without their most potent offensive weapon. Brian Fernandez picked up a red card in Portland’s 2-2 draw last week against Sporting Kansas City. Fernandez had 11 goals in 19 matches since joining the Timbers on a DP contract in May. That means Savarese must settle for Jeremy Ebobisse, who also has 11 goals so far this season, at the top of his lineup. The horror.
Blanco leads the team in assists with 10 to go along with five goals. He seems to fill in space in the left and middle of the lineup created by his midfield companion Diego Valeri, and he has taken full advantage this season. Valeri is another MLS legend that needs no introduction and has been a pain for opposing teams since joining Portland in 2013. His eight goals and eight assists are a perfect example of the kind of balance he brings to the attack. He has been nursing a calf injury for the last week and did not play in last week’s game in Kansas City, though he was in the 18 man lineup.
If the Quakes play against a Timbers squad that will be without Fernandez and Valeri, they can press the defense more as the counter-attack threat is altered. Uncharacteristically the Timbers have also been bad at home this season after starting out a months-long road trip as Providence Park was being upgraded. Both squads are bruised and battered from the long season. Both are dealing with contract speculations surrounding key parts of their organizations. And both are desperate to be a part of the 2019 MLS Playoffs. This should be a fun match.