Saturday, March 9, 2019

Week 2 Predictions - Portland Timbers vs. Los Angeles Football Club

After last week's conditions, anything would be better for Portland
Welcome to week 2 of the 2019 Major League soccer season. The Portland Timbers started off their year by playing in some of the worst conditions I've ever seen for a soccer match when they played the Colorado Rapids. The match started in bitter temperatures at just 19 degrees with first kick, and wind chills dropping things into single digits. When the snow started falling throughout the rest of the match, it turned everything on its ear. Now, dealing with the conditions was an afterthought to staying on your feet and not getting injured as the turf conditions changed with every falling snowflake. It was certainly entertaining to watch the match on television in a warm house with several dozing kitties, but I can't even imagine what it was like being there. 

Portland is very fortunate to have walked out of the park with a point by virtue of a 3 all draw. There was plenty of folks that said we didn't learn a whole lot from this match, and just to be happy with the point and walk away considering the conditions. However, I think we did pick up a few things from this one. Firstly, Andy Polo and Sebastian Blanco were everywhere - and their speed will give clubs problems. Colorado had no clue how to mark either player, and it was the conditions that really impacted what they weer able to do. Secondly, Diego Valeri and Blanco will be the focal points of the offense per usual - and considering Diego leaves Colorado with a goal and an assist and Blanco gets a goal, it's business as usual. Lastly, this defense needs a leader and badly. If Portland hadn't made three very glaring defensive errors and let up in each instance, they could have walked out of Colorado with all the points. Granted, Kei Kamara has made a career of scoring goals moving just off a defender's shoulder, so I can't get too upset when he slipped easily by Julio Cascante. However, there is no excuse for not marking Benny Feilhaber off the second half kick as he dribbled past most of the Timbers defense and scored seconds into the half. Nor is there an excuse to leave an unmarked forward at the far post with seconds left in the match, as the Timbers did when they left Andre Shinyashiki without anyone nearby off a Jeff Attinella rebound from a shot off the flank. The Rapids rookie had an easy tap in and the Timbers learned that mistakes at any time in any condition can and often do come back to haunt you. 

Our cats were not doing this for Timbers - Rapids as they dozed away the day.
Midweek, we got a look at the official Timbers roster via the MLS Media resources, and we could see what the group looked like under the actual MLS roster rules. Portland indeed has 28 players on the roster, but they have 4 spots officially open to sign or add players due to Aljaz Ivacic being on the injured list after leg surgery and Renzo Zambrano being listed as loaned out to an unknown destination. With those 2 players also not on the official roster, the Timbers avoid roster issues with international spots having 10 international players with only 8 available spots. There are rumors that some players are close to getting their green cards - Claude Dielna for one - which would adjust this count, but for now, I am not expecting any other roster news or notes as the winter transfer window is now closed. If there are any adjustments forthcoming, it would likely be a call up from Timbers 2 or a domestic player that isn't currently under contract with any other side.

Goalkeepers (4) Jeff Attinella, Kendall McIntosh, Aljaz Ivacic, Steve Clark
Fullbacks (4): Marco Farfan, Jorge Villafana, Zarek Valentin, Jorge Moreira
Center Backs (5): Julio Cascante, Claude Dielna, Modou Jadama, Larrys Mabiala, Bill Tuiloma
Defensive Mids (5): Diego Chara, David Guzman, Cristhian Paredes, Eryk Williamson, Renzo Zambrano
Attacking Mids (6): Dairon Asprilla, Sebastian Blanco, Marvin Loria, Andy Polo, Diego Valeri, Andres Flores
Forwards (4): Jeremy Ebobisse, Foster Langsdorf, Lucas Melano. Tomas Conechny

2019 MLS Draft Picks: F Ryan Sierakowski, D Lennart Hein, D Francesco Moore, M David Zalzman

Senior Roster (1 through 20): Asprilla, Attinella, Blanco, Cascante, Chara, Conechny, Dielna, Ebobisse, Guzman, Ivacic, Mabiala, McIntosh, Melano, Moreira, Paredes, Polo, Tuiloma, Valentin, Valeri, Villafana.
Supplemental Roster (21 through 24): Clark, Flores, Jadama, Zambrano
Reserve Roster (25 through 30): Farfan, Langsdorf, Loria, Williamson

Designated Players: Blanco, Melano, Valeri
Home Grown Players: Farfan, Langsdorf, Williamson
International Players: Cascante, Conechny, Ivacic, Loria, Mabiala, Moreira, Paredes, Polo, Tuiloma
On Loan: Zambrano (TBD)
Injured List: Ivacic

Timbers 2: GK: Leeker; D: De Vera, Diz Pe, Hanson, Ornstil, Smith; M: Anguiano, Kobayashi, Ojeda, Wharton; F: Hurtado, Sierakowski

MLS Roster Notes:

  • A club's active roster is comprised of up to 30 players. All 30 players are eligible for selection to each 18-player game-day squad during the 2019 MLS regular season and playoffs.
  • SENIOR: (ON-BUDGET) Up to 20 players, occupying roster spots 1-20, count against the club's 2019 Salary Budget , and are referred to collectively as the club's Senior Roster.
  • SUPPLEMENTAL & RESERVE: (OFF-BUDGET) The salaries of players on the Supplemental Roster (spots 21-24) and Reserve Roster (spots 25-30) do not count toward a club's Salary Budget.
  • INTL: In 2019, a total of 192 international roster spots are divided among the 24 clubs. These spots are tradable, in full season increments, so some clubs may have more than eight and some clubs may have fewer than eight.
  • DP & Young DP: The Designated Player Rule allows clubs to acquire up to three players whose total compensation and acquisition costs exceed the Maximum Salary Budget Charge, with the club bearing financial responsibility for the amount of compensation above each player's Salary Budget Charge. A Designated Player 23 years old (or younger than the age of 23) during the League Year is a Young Designated Player Budget Charge. Designated Player spots are not tradable.
  • HG: A club may sign a player to a contract without subjecting him to the MLS SuperDraft if the player has been a member of a club's youth academy for at least one year and has met the necessary training and retention requirements. Players joining MLS through this mechanism are known as Homegrown Players.
  • GA & GA-C: Generation adidas (GA) and Generation adidas Canada (GA-C) are joint programs between MLS and adidas that are dedicated to developing exceptional domestic talent in a professional environment. Until a player graduates from the program, Generation adidas players are on a club's Supplemental Roster and are not charged against the team's salary budget.
For week 2 of the season of the MLS season, the Timbers head to warmer climates to play Los Angeles Football Club, or LAFC for short. Despite joining the league just last year, LAFC and the Timbers has quite a volatile history of matchups. Portland won in their first ever meeting at Providence Park back in May 2019 with a dramatic 2 to 1 win behind Cristian Paredes' first ever MLS goal, but it was the July matchups that provided the drama. The two clubs played in a scoreless draw in league play at Banc Of California Stadium on July 15 in a very conservatively played affair, but Portland remained in the area as the same sides were paired up to play in the 2018 U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals on July 19. Playing much quicker pace, LAFC raced out to a 3 to 1 lead and held on to win 3 to 2, but the match itself was plagued by controversy relating to LAFC fielding a potentially ineligible player by USOC rules. Portland filed a protest but withdrew it later, although there were calls for LAFC to forfeit the result regarding the status of Mark-Anthony Kaye. Kaye was listed as domestic for MLS league rules being from Canada, but he is considered international for USOC matches and LAFC had already played 5 other international players. The Open Cup for 2019 has closed out this loophole, but there was also other bad blood surrounding LAFC forward Adama Diomande, who made claims of being called a racial slur during this same match. The Timbers investigated the situation and no official punishments were ever handed out publicly, but suffice to say, there is some tension among the sides. Much like the Valeri - Blanco duo makes the Timbers go, it's Diomande and Carlos Vela with some help from Diego Rossi and Christian Ramirez, formerly of Minnesota United.

Being just 2 weeks into the season, how will the Timbers rebound from the near win and wintery conditions to much warmer conditions under a faster paced tempo? Our group ponders that very situation in this week's predictions. To add a more interesting element to our proceedings, we will tabulate points based on each week's results with a correct prediction (picking a win and the Timbers win for example) at 1 point, and an exact match (score and results) with 5 points. Spot was the only one that picked the correct result with a draw, so she is leading our group with a single point.

This looks like a goal, right? 

Tortie - Timbers 15, LAFC 11; 0 points.

The diminutive one was chatty per usual when asked about this match, and we had trouble keeping up with her various noises. Her usual tactic is to ask for lots of goals, and Tortie thinks that Jeff Attinella and Tyler Miller will be picking the ball out of the net a lot on this afternoon. Unlike some old Timbers Army Football Club or Old Growth FC matches, however, both sides will be lighting up the scoreboards in this one per the tortoise shelled one. 

Thinking cat is thinking.

GB - Timbers 2, LAFC 5; 0 points.

GB hasn't predicted many multiple goal matches in his career as a soccer expert, but he's predicting that both sides will get plenty of goals like his girlfriend, Tortie. However, he isn't expecting the track meet that she predicted, instead thinking that both sides will eventually get hungry and slow down the attack. Granted, we asked him about this right before his late night snack and he could have been distracted by food, but GB gave 5 meows for LAFC and just 2 for the visitors. Considering he went right to sleep after this, he must be confident in his findings. 

I am the only one allowed to have points.

Spot - Timbers 1, LAFC 0; 1 point.

We actually got Spot to pick a score for once. After showing off that she was the only one to correctly predict that nobody would win in week 1, Spot did a loud mew when asked if the Timbers would score a goal in LAFC. She remained very silent at each of the other questions, even after getting plenty of time with the brush while sitting in the sunlight. Of all the experts this week, Spot is the only one picking a Timbers win - and she was by herself last week as well. Can she make it two weeks in a row?

If you didn't like last week's pick, you might not like this either.

Pilot - LAFC 1, Timbers 0; 0 points.

Pilot's interview was early Saturday morning, when he started giving the gift of kisses to anyone about. While learning this from Daisy, our blind calico that used to be their caretaker when she was with us, he gave kisses when asked about the match. Jennifer asked if this was a gift, and Pilot thumped his tail down; we interpreted this as somebody giving a gift. When she asked if the Timbers were going to give LAFC a goal, the tail thumped again, so this means that somebody will give LAFC an own goal. He then left the proceedings to run downstairs and beg for food, so he's convinced it won't be a happy day for the Timbers at all. 

 This picking soccer isn't so difficult.

Lucy - Timbers 4, LAFC 4; 0 points.

Lucy doesn't meow so much as she yells. She yells about everything, and so we have to conduct her interview in a quiet part of the house to avoid waking up everybody. She gave 4 yells for both sides, then proceeded to walk away to use the litter box. We weren't going to ask for any follow up questions considering the circumstances, but since she was very loud and confident, we'll go with her original thoughts of both sides getting 4 goals and it's another sharing of the points for everybody. 

My cats might know soccer better than me. 

Kip - Timbers 1, LAFC 3; 0 points.

I haven't predicted the Timbers to lose or draw that often in these proceedings, but I don't like the matchup this weekend. Portland's defense was very suspect at points against the Rapids, and while I feel the conditions had something to do with it, the other fact is that LAFC has a much better offense than Colorado. I'd like to see somebody step in and be the defensive leader, and hopefully this happens in this match. But I'm not holding my breath at this point, either. Portland will look good for most of the match, but they will come up short and absorb their first loss of 2019. 

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