The defending MLS Cup champion Portland Timbers make their first visit to Orlando on Sunday. The Timbers currently are 1-1-1 and fresh off a draw with Real Salt Lake, which had two players sent off on March 19.
Portland runs a 4-3-3 formation. They normally would be a high-pressure team, but on the road they more than likely will sit back and defend. They look to make short and long passes and play as direct as possible. The benefit of the 4-3-3 is there should be triangles all across the field to give options for players to play to. The outside midfielders will stretch and stay out wide and make penetrating runs in behind the midfield. Another advantage of the 4-3-3 is that with a quality striker up front, they can be dangerous with different penetrating attacks. The midfield can adjust and become a defensive pairing or a single defender, depending on how they attack. They have speed all across the field, which makes them a dangerous team for the full 90 minutes. They have a deep bench with MLS veterans that can come out and make a difference.
Fanendo Adi (9) - F
Adi is a true No. 9 striker who has a lot of speed up top. He has great 1-v-1 skills. He is the target for the attack and can help set up the midfielders by making runs in behind. If he is given an opening, he will shoot. The shocking part about Adi is that he is 6-foot-4 and has excellent ball skills. He is a threat in the air as much as he is beating a player on the dribble. He is a difficult match-up for any defender.
Darlington Nagbe (6) - RM
Nagbe is quick, agile and great on the ball. He is one of Portland's main play-makers and will create opportunities by beating players on the flanks to serve crosses in. He is another player that shoots in a more central position. Porter may opt not to play him in Sunday's match due to his recent World Cup qualifying call-up with the United States Men's National Team. While Nagbe didn't play Tuesday in Columbus, he did play in Guatemala City and has had a lot of travel in the last week. Still, I wouldn't count him out from appearing in the game and making an impact. He is a player that defenders need to be aware of on the field at all times.
Nat Borchers (7 ) - CB
Nat Borchers is the heart and soul for the Portland Timbers. He brings experience to the back line and is the organizer. He does well to do everything in his power to keep the ball out of the net. Borchers is good in the air and is above average in shutting down a striker. His one weakness is that he can be caught ball watching and be pulled out of position. His play reminds me of Aurélien Collin with less speed.
Keys to Victory
Portland will be one the most complete teams Orlando City faces all year. The first key will be to put high pressure on the Timbers. Portland's system is based on making sure it has open passing lanes. If any team can bring some pressure and force the midfield to make quick decisions, it may cause turnovers in the attacking third.
The next is not to get caught by the counter attack. They have some speed on the outside and if Nagbe plays he poses a mismatch for any MLS team. The outside back is where there is a weakness for the Timbers. Their goalkeeping is average at best. Adam Kwarasey hasn't been the most confident in goal. He has given up a weak free kick goal against RSL and the 40-yard goal by San Jose's Quincy Amarikwa. The goals and opportunities have come off crosses that have the attacker cutting inside.
For Orlando City to be successful, the outside backs will need to be influential in the attack or the outside midfielders must make wide runs and test the goalkeeper.