The San Jose Earthquakes are set to return to action yet again in 2020, when they host the Portland Timbers behind closed doors Wednesday in the latest phase of the unique season.
In order to get a sense of what’s going on with the Timbers, who are fresh off winning the MLS is Back Tournament, we spoke to Grant Little of SB Nation’s Timbers site Stumptown Footy about the incoming opponent. Many thanks to Grant for taking the time to answer my questions!
Center Line Soccer asks Stumptown Footy:
1. What’s the prevailing feeling around the Timbers at the moment, after winning the MLS is Back Tournament but then losing at home to Seattle this past weekend?
Before the Sounders game, everyone was very optimistic about the win in Orlando. Obviously the result against Seattle dampened the mood, but the scoreline made the match look a lot worse than it actually was. Neither Seattle nor Portland played particularly well. Portland looked slow and lacked creativity which was concerning, but may have been predictable after returning from the bubble.
The defeat to Seattle stings. But in my opinion, nine times out of ten, Raul Ruidiaz does not finish the first goal and Larrys Mabiala does not make the mistake that led to the second goal. There are still things to worry about considering the last 3-0 loss the Timbers had came against San Jose, but I expect the Seattle match to serve as a bit of a wake-up call and Portland will come out with something to prove.
2. Which new players are stepping up so far this season for Portland?
The revelation of the season is Eryk Williamson, without a doubt. He solidified a spot as a midfield starter in the MLS is Back Tournament and has formed a great partnership with Diego Chara. Williamson is crucial to the Timbers’ defensive shape and often kick-starts things going forward. It has been a lot of fun to see his progression from Timbers 2.
Another new player that has impressed me is Jaroslaw Niezgoda. The Polish forward signed from Legia Warsaw. He scored had two goals and added an assist in the tournament. He also put away the winning penalty in the shootout against FC Cincinnati. His composure, footwork and unselfishness have stood out to me as well as his ability to score with both feet and his head.
3. With a trophy already this season, but it being a weird year for everyone, is the goal to go for MLS Cup now, or to get through the year in one piece and not get too fixated on tangible goals for the Timbers?
I think Portland are happy that they won the MLS is Back Tournament and will look at that as a great success. But I also think all of the fans and the team will want to win one of the traditional trophies because rivals may question the legitimacy of the ‘untraditional’ cup competition. Ultimately, I think the Timbers will want to take the momentum and experience from their success in the MLS is Back Knockout Tournament and make a deep run in the MLS Cup playoffs.
4. Prediction for Wednesday’s game?
You can find my answers to Grant’s questions on Stumptown Footy.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.