By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer
They won’t have to face off in the CONCACAF Champions League after Portland’s loss to Liga MX side Club America, but the Union will have their work cut out for them facing their first Western Conference opponent in this MLS season.
Going into this game, the Union are currently sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference, and have been enjoying a good run of results. Despite the lack of losses lately, the Union haven’t necessarily been putting in the performances to back up their wins.
The most notable problem within the current Union system is the lackluster offense. While strikers Cory Burke and Kacper Przybyłko have been getting goals, it hasn’t been enough to give the team a comfortable lead in their last few games. It’s been the defense that’s been winning games, as the back four of Olivier Mbaizo, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, and Kai Wagner putting in excellent performances week in and week out. While it goes without saying, Andre Blake has consistently been one of the, if not the, best performers in a Union shirt on the field.
Going into this game against the Timbers, the Union’s midfield will once again play a key role in generating offense. Jim Curtin’s tried and true diamond formation has been executed to near perfection, and that will only benefit the Boys In Blue as they look to counter Portland’s prolific attack. Back in his natural position as a number 10, Jamiro Monteiro will be the man to get the ball to if the Union have any hopes of moving their strikers into prime scoring position.
Predicted Lineup: Blake, Mbaizo, Glesnes, Elliott, Wagner, Martinez, Flach, Bedoya, Monteiro, Burke, Przybylko
- As stated before, Monteiro will be the most important player on the field, considering the fact that he’s the main creative force in this midfield. The more experienced Leon Flach will also get the look over Anthony Fontana since Portland are a historically tough opponent for the Union. The defense will, as it should, remain the same, while putting Burke and Przybylko together up front is by far the best bet for getting as many goals as possible.
Score Prediction: The Union won’t be able to cruise past the Timbers, especially with their recent stretch of mediocre performances. They can only rely on their defense to keep them in the game for so long before the offense, specifically the strikers, need to start stepping up and doing their job—which mainly includes making sure the Union don’t end the game with a singular goal, leaving an exhausted defense to pick up the slack with a desperately hard-fought clean sheet. It’ll be a nervy 2-2 draw, assuming that the Union’s lucky streak doesn’t run out before they can get their team performance together.