For the first time in their history, the San Jose Earthquakes have started a season by losing their first four matches not exactly the record they were hoping to break after bringing in Matias Almeyda to become the team’s new manager. They are hoping to prevent being the first Quakes squad ever to go pointless in their first five matches when the Portland Timbers make a visit to Avaya on Saturday. The Quakes are looking to take advantage of a Portland team that has not played at home all season, traveling at least 8,500 miles in the process, due to ongoing construction at Providence Park. After last weeks embarrassing result it could be difficult to see how the Quakes can come away with any points so let’s take a look at their opponents and see what we find out.
Formation: For most of the season manager Giovanni Savarese has lined the Timbers up in a 4-3-3 with Diego Valeri in the middle of the formation. This is a similar formation to what New York Red Bulls use which the Quakes had success against for one half.
Jeff Attinella earned the starting position last year and led the Timbers all the way to the MLS Cup final with a goal against average of 1.08 along with seven shutouts, so the Quakes offense will have their work cut out for them. That being said Attinella is having a much different season so far in 2019 where his goals against average is sitting at 3 goals and his save percentage is down by 30 percent. This gives the Quakes an excellent opportunity to break out of their early-season offensive slump
Portland has lined up most matches this season with a back four of Jorge Villafaña, Julio Cascante, Larrys Mabiala, Zarek Valentin. Villafaña attacks up the left wing while Valentin is his counterpart on the right. Cascante and Mabiala are the center-backs, and as such, they handle the bulk of the defensive duties near their keeper and when on offense they quickly get the ball out to the wings to start the attack. A defensive weakness is the side of Villafaña which was exploited by LAFC en route to scoring four goals against the Timbers three of them coming from Villafaña’s side of the pitch. If Cristian Espinoza can do to Villafaña what he did to NY Red Bulls defender Kyle Duncan, the Quakes have a shot of winning this match and possibly getting Chris Wondolowski his long-coveted MLS record-tying goal.
The midfield consists of the trio of Diego Chara, Diego Valeri, and David Guzman. Chara and Valeri are Portland legends that have been the heart of the team for years, and if any team is going to want to beat the Timbers, they are going to have to beat these two. The Timbers have scored 5 goals this season, and Valeri has three assists and a goal if you can find a way to disrupt him you can mess with their whole offense. With Anibal Godoy and Chara in the same match, you can expect a physical battle in the middle of the pitch, ear flicks and all.
Up top Savarese usually goes with Sebástian Blanco Jeremy Ebobisse and Andy Polo. Blanco was tied with Valeri last season for the team lead in goals at 14 but has started this season quietly, so he’s going to be looking to get his first goal of the season. Ebobisse currently leads the Timbers in goals so far this young season, and with Andy Polo questionable with a leg injury he may get another start up top with Valeri similar to last week against Los Angeles Galaxy.
So there’s my breakdown of the Timbers they are a good team in a strange situation with the stadium expansion in Portland that unsurprisingly hasn’t found their rhythm. There are obviously a lot of problems in San Jose but this match can be won and would give a struggling fanbase something to look forward to.