Saturday result will ride on Portland Timbers ability to defend

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Portland Timbers
ATLANTA, GA — DECEMBER 08: Portland Timbers defender Jorge Villafana (4) during the MLS Cup Finals match between Atlanta United and Portland Timbers on December 8, 2018 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA.(Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Editorial (February 28, 2019) — The Portland Timbers have a lot going for them this year.

A strong midfield, a striker with a high ceiling — with a Designated Player coming sometime this year — and a goalkeeper who, often overlooked, has made a case to be a regular starter in this league. However, there is one question that remains: How will Portland’s backline hold up?

Saturday result will ride on Portland Timbers ability to defend

Though they ended up making it to MLS Cup last season, Portland gave up 48 goals during the regular season, which was the eighth best in the league. With the new playoff format coming this season, so much depends on getting a high seed, especially with how competitive the west will be this year. To compete for one of those top spots, the Timbers need to straighten things up in the back.

The Colorado Rapids will provide the perfect regular-season test for them.

The Threat of Colorado

The Rapids are in the middle of a huge rebuild. They aren’t rushing the process and are waiting for Tim Howard and Shkëlzen Gashi’s contracts to run out to free up some funds. Even so Colorado will have a brand new front line acquired this off-season.

The Rapids are missing a true No. 10. However, by adding Benny Feilhaber to the midfield and Kei Kamara and Deigo Rubio up top, they are expected to score goals this season. Even with little time playing together, the Rapids’ attack should give us an idea of where Portland stands defensively.

The Timbers Current Backline

Right back Jorge Moreira is on loan from River Plate. He is high rated but is also coming back from a serious knee injury in 2017. Since then, has only played nine matches. He will be expected to start in front of Valentin.

Meanwhile, Mabiala and Cascante are the most likely to start at center back on Saturday. This is also likely where the Timbers will have the most trouble defensively. The two struggled at times last year. They could very well struggle against the likes of Diego Rubio and Kei Kamara. How the two deal with Colorado’s scoring threats will shed light on how Portland will fare against the likes of the Seattle Sounders, Atlanta United and other sides who are strong up top.

Jorge Villafaña, for all his talent, struggled in Portland’s preseason game against USL side Phoenix Rising. That could probably be attributed to some tactical tinkering by head coach Giovanni Savarese. Regardless, if Colorado can get behind Villafaña similarly to Phoenix, it could spell trouble for the rest of the season.

Looking ahead to Saturday

The regular-season begins for the Portland Timbers FC on Saturday.

For the first 13 matches, Portland will be on the road. This is because of renovations and seat expansion to Providence Park, which is also the home of the National Women’s Soccer League side, the Portland Thorns.

On Saturday, the Timbers will face the Rapids at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado. The match is slated to begin at 3 p.m. PT/6 p.m. ET.

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