With a hurricane mixed in, Orlando City (9-12-8, 35 points) will finally wrap up its long road trip this Sunday when the team arrives at Providence Park to take on the Portland Timbers (12-10-8, 44 points) for the one and only meeting between the two sides this season (8 p.m. ET, FS1).
The Lions come into the match off of a 3-3 draw against Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this past Saturday, making them the only team so far in Atlanta’s four games at their new home to score a goal, let alone three.
Dom Dwyer finally broke through with his first two goals with Orlando City in MLS, and Cyle Larin added one of his own to tally goals in three straight games. The Lions still face a pretty steep uphill battle heading into the final weeks of the season, sitting seven points back of the playoff line with five games to go.
On the other side, Portland currently holds the second spot in the tightly contested Western Conference standings and is just one point back of the conference-leading Vancouver Whitecaps, even after a 2-1 loss in Real Salt late this past week.
This is just the third all-time matchup between the two clubs. Portland came to Orlando last season, a game that saw the Lions walk away 4-1 winners. Before that, in Orlando’s only trip to the Rose City, Cyle Larin bagged his first career MLS goal as Adrian Heath’s side grabbed a 2-0 win back in 2015.
Jason Kreis said at training this week that his desire is to field the strongest possible lineup through the rest of the season. Jonathan Spector could get the start again this weekend, even after leaving the game against Atlanta hardly 10 minutes into the second half because of an aggravated knee injury. Like Atlanta, Portland plays on turf and that makes this another risk for Spector, but if he thinks he can play, he’ll play.
After serving his one-game suspension last weekend for yellow card accumulation, Kaká will be back with the team this week. Giles Barnes has gotten the nod from Kreis to play the No. 10 role, and has played well in each of those two games. It’ll be interesting to see if Kreis goes with him again this weekend, especially given his comments about playing the strongest lineup.
And up top, Dwyer and Larin are clicking. Dwyer has assisted on each of Larin’s last two goals and the two are starting to look very comfortable up top.
It hasn’t been the best year for Caleb Porter’s side, but because the West is weaker this season, it’s made things easy for the Timbers to slide into second place in the conference with a month left in the season.
They do have one of the league’s top goal scorers this season in Diego Valeri, who has 18, and Fanendo Adi, who has 10 of his own. In addition to those two, Portland boasts one of the league’s most dangerous play makers in the midfield in USMNT regular Darlington Nagbe.
Portland has only dropped two of its 14 games at home so far this season, which will make for an interesting match for sure, as the Lions come in undefeated in their past two away from home.
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It’s been somewhat of a down year for Nagbe, who hasn’t made quite the impact this season as he can, but he’s still one of the most potent players on the ball in the midfield and can create great opportunities for the scorers around him.
Prediction: Orlando City 1, Portland Timbers 3.
It’s a long trip across the country, even if the Lions are going out a few days early, and it’s been a long month already. The team will be happy to get home for a few weeks after this matchup, but with the focus on the game, it’ll be too much for them to handle on Sunday night.