|Beautiful city, Denver is, but this weekend will be cold and snowy.
The first match of 2019 finds the Timbers traveling to Denver, Colorado to play the Colorado Rapids. The weather conditions are going to be very similar to what the Portland area is experiencing right now with cold and wind, but there is snow in the forecast and on the ground. Portland has usually avoided the snowy stuff for their pre-seasons, but in something truly weird for this year, the snow followed them down to Tucson for the last days of their preseason matched for the Mobile Mini Sun Cup. Portland has traditionally struggled with adjusting to the conditions, as their record in Colorado has been decidedly in the home side's favor until most recently. Most experts attributed that to the mile high altitude, which can be difficult to acclimate to in a short time period. Portland has arrived early or just before the match in previous years, and it didn't seem to matter much either way, but with new conditioning programs and a renewed emphasis on fitness, I expect the Timbers to be just fine in any respect.
Colorado, meanwhile, has undergone quite the transformation from a team that has languished near the basement of the Western Conference for many years. After winning MLS Cup in 2010, they have played in the post season three times and missed out 5 times with the past 2 years finishing dead last in the West. Under new coach Anthony Hudson, the Rapids have tried their best to ditch the defensive minded play from previous regimes to play more pressing soccer, and they seem to have found the horses to finally implement that strategy. They've added talented but somewhat temperamental scorer Kei Kamara from Vancouver, speedy winger Diego Rubio from Sporting Kansas City, plus midfield stalwarts Nicolas Mezquida from Vancouver and Kellyn Acosta from FC Dallas. Acosta was acquired last year, but played sparingly due to injury, but when healthy, he gives some pace and width to an attack that has stagnated at times. Colorado added center back Keegan Rosenberry to pair with the hulking Axel Sjoberg to provide cover from either Tim Howard or Clint Irwin in goal, but suffice to say, Colorado has added some pieces that might finally mesh together.
With this being the first match of 2019, what do we all expect from the festivities? Let's find out what our crack team of predictors are thinking.
|I like goals
Tortie - Timbers 12, Rapids 9.
Team Tortie loves goals. Team Tortie likes lots of goals. Team Tortie is all about the ball going into the net. She eeped and mewed through her interview, making lots of racket when asked about the number of Timbers goals. When asked why she thought this was the case, she said, "Eep blergh mew oop." She kept repeating this, so apparently it's really important but for the life of me, we can't figure out what this means. Maybe it's "lots of goals" in Tortie speak.
|Well, actually, I do know a lot about soccer.
GB - Timbers 2, Rapids 1.
GB was a bit more relaxed, providing his thoughts after a breakfast of crunchy food while begging for peanut butter and oatmeal. He meowed twice for Portland, but just once for the host team. I didn't realize he knew the song, "We always win 2 to 1", but apparently he knows more that we all realize. Since he went for a nap right after providing his thoughts, I think he feels confident about this information.
|I am the queen of the world!!
Spot - no score.
The princess was more interested in the brush when asked about the Timbers - Rapids match, but she eventually gave enough attention to the questions to at least provide some thoughts. She didn't make any noise when asked about goals, but when asked about a scoreless draw, she sneezed several times before leaving to drink some water. Maybe she's allergic to the altitude.
|I like purple. And chasing people.
Pilot - Rapids 3, Timbers 1.
I'm not sure what Pilot has against the Timbers, but he seemed to be very focused and excited when talking about the Rapids. After providing three loud meows for the number of goals for Colorado, he ran over to the cat tree in our cat room, and scratched it for several moments. I tried to ask if he meant yellow cards versus goals, but he declined any comments to clarify, so for now, we'll assume he's talking about goals.
|I'm switching the channel to watch CSI again.
Lucy - Timbers 2, Rapids 0.
Lucy is our screaming cat. All of her talking is done at very high pitch and sounds like yelling, so much that during work from home days, my co-workers think we have a young child at home. She screamed twice about Portland very loudly, but didn't say one word about Colorado. Considering it was the quietest she had been for a few hours, I think she's convinced Portland will get the win this weekend.
|I am bundled up. And very green.
Kip - Timbers 2, Rapids 1.
I am really not trying to copy GB, but the history for the Timbers hasn't been the best in Colorado. In 11 matches there, Portland has 2 wins and 2 draws, although the last match there was a very dramatic 3 to 2 result. In the first match of the year, both teams will be excited to be playing meaningful matches for the first time, and for me, I just think Portland has more talent collectively. Colorado isn't the pushover that they have been in previous years, but I believe the Timbers will get the full three points to start the year.