Timbers vs. FC Dallas Match Preview: Can any Portland goalscorer step up?
What to expect when Dallas comes to town.
A week and a day removed from extending their unbeaten streak against the Sounders, the Portland Timbers return home for a crucial Western Conference clash against FC Dallas (7 p.m. PT, FS1, streaming on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV [FREE]).
Here’s what to expect as the struggling Timbers host a dangerous Dallas side.
A look at the opposition
Since we last saw FC Dallas, they have been playing mostly pretty decent soccer. They lost just once from April 8 to May 27 — a stretch of eight games — and that run was buoyed mostly by very solid defensive play.
While they haven’t kept a lot of clean sheets, the Burn have still held their opponents to minimal goals. All of Dallas’ wins or draws this year have come in matches where they limit to their opponent to one or fewer goals. They’ve proven to be an adept team at limiting the quality of chances opponents are creating, as evidenced by their very solid expected goals allowed number, which is fifth best in the entire league according to FBref.
It’s good for Dallas that they’re defense is reliable, as their offense hasn’t quite been top-tier in MLS. They don’t score many goals (they’ve only scored two more on the year than Portland), so they often are needing to score late or ride out comeback attempts from opponents to pick up results.
Despite those shortcomings, Dallas is still in that “good, but not great” tier in the Western Conference, and they currently sit fourth in the conference table.
Their form however has taken a bit of a dip in recent weeks. The Burn suffered back to back losses to Sporting Kansas City and Nashville, and in both games they gave up multiple goals.
Dallas won their most recent outing, but it was a weird one: their midweek win over St. Louis was a resumption of a game that was paused a month ago due to weather, and it lasted just forty minutes.
Timbers team news & outlook
Two ways you can look at Portland’s most recent game: it was a hard-earned point in the home of a big rival — or it was a limp offensive performance against a very beatable side.
Whichever way you look at it, the reality is that Portland has not been scoring many goals lately. They’ve scored just one goal in the past four games, and have been putting up historically bad expected goals numbers offensively as of late.
This may shock you, but it is in fact hard to win soccer games if you don’t score. So any conversation of “what do the Timbers have to do to beat Dallas” has to start with “start putting the dang ball in the back of the net.”
That will be a tough ask based off of Dallas’ defensive form this season, and it is compounded by the fact that Portland’s forwards have forgotten their finishing boots in the garage. The most recent and most likely forward to score for the Timbers, Franck Boli, has missed a growing number of sitters right in front of the net. He, along with the rest of the expected goal scoring options, haven’t been able to score, and the rest of the Timbers offense is rushing and/or forcing attacks and settling for low-percentage looks at goal.
It doesn’t have to be pretty, it doesn’t have to be magical. Any player putting the ball into the net for Portland in any legal fashion will do, and will hopefully be the spark to break the scoring duck that has maligned the Timbers over the past month.
Defensively, the Timbers will be without two key pieces in Aljaz Ivacic (international duty) and Claudio Bravo (yellow card accumulation). The easy rotation to guess is David Bingham stepping into goal. But Bravo’s absence raises a bit of a question: does Giovanni Savarese start Justin Rasmussen, or shift over Eric Miller to left back? And speaking of Miller, will he get the start over Juan Mosqeura for another week?
Regardless of who starts, they will have to track the dangerous duo of Alan Velasco and Jesus Ferreira. Those two players have combined to score over half of Dallas’ goals, with Ferreira leading the way with ten.
The defense will also have to be locked in to prevent another late concession at home — something the Timbers suffered in both their most recent home fixture and their last home meeting against Dallas.
Timbers (4-2-3-1): Bingham; Mosqeura, Zuparic, McGraw, Miller; D. Chara, Paredes; Asprilla, Evander, Moreno; Boli
Dallas (4-2-3-1): Paes; Twumasi, Tafari, Martinez, Farfan; Cerillo, Quingon; Obrian, Ntsabeleng, Velasco; Ferreira
Dallas hasn’t won a regular season game in Providence Park since 2016, and all of the matches since then have been low scoring affairs. In fact, Portland’s two most recent home wins over the Burn have been by a 1-0 scoreline.
So I’m going to follow history and predict a 1-0 scoreline — but unfortunately it will be the Timbers on then losing end of it. Portland just straight up isn’t scoring, and against a team whose defense has made it a habit of limiting quality looks I don’t see that trend changing tomorrow. Ferreira scores, Portland’s body language gets worse, and we all go into next week sad.