Matchday 14 Preview: Portland Timbers vs. MNUFC

Matchday 14
AppleTV  | 1500 ESPN

Following a midweek win, its first at home this season, Minnesota United were certainly looking to carry a bit of momentum out on the road, where, at 3-4-0, they have found some success in 2023, especially against a Portland Timber’s defense that has been quite porous. But with the late Friday announcement that Robin Lod suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee during the midweek game, the reality of facing the Timbers, against whom the Loons are winless in their last 3, in Portland, where they have struggled to play, going 2-4-1 all-time, will now add a bit of extra weight to what must already be some very tired legs. Beginning the second half of a busy May, the team will need to adjust on the fly, trying to find, once again, a coherent and cohesive offense still without their playmaking DP on the field and now also without their most versatile possession player.

Missing the playoffs in 2022 after 5 straight post-season appearances, the Timbers began this year in a bit of a panic with 2 wins from their first 9 games. But after weathering an early bout with injuries, they seem to be working themselves into form, unbeaten in their last 4, tallying 7 of their 18 goals in that stretch. With only 1 loss at home this year, Portland will look to continue its progress from the comfort of their home turf.


MIN: 7th in the West, 15 pts., 4-5-3 (road 3-4-0), 11g/14ga

Last five: WL(W)LD

Last game: 5/17 MIN 1-0 HOU (Hlongwane 14’)

POR: 6th in the West,16 pts., 4-5-4 (home3-1-2), 18g/19ga

Last five: DW(L)DW

Last game: 5/17 RSL 0-0 POR

All-time head-to-head: 7-4-2 (road 2-4-1)

Last meeting: August 10, 2022, POR 1-0 MIN (Asprilla 61’)

What to watch

Although the temptation will be to be aggressive and attack Portland’s at times shaky defense, with the loss of Lod, Adrian Heath’s tendency to be even more conservative on the road, and Portland’s recent use of a very free #10, Minnesota may choose to stick with a defensive 4-2-3-1 tonight, something that plays like a 4-4-2. If they can sit back for most of the game, absorbing pressure as they did to start the season, and capitalize on the organized press that was so successful against Houston, the Loons could get out of Portland with all 3 points.

In some ways, Portland is a mirror image of what Minnesota has been, playing in a 4-2-3-1 with a free playmaking #10, while struggling to find any cohesion between the attack and the defense. But while for Minnesota that gappyness has tended to favor a strong defense, for Portland the gappyness tends to favor the offense, leaving a very leaky back line. Their 18 goals are 6th best in the league this season, but they still have a -1 goal differential. With defensive midfielder Eryk Williamson out for the season with an ACL tear, their defense will not be getting any tighter, but with an incredibly creative new playmaker and one of the best young right backs in the league, that might not matter.

Who to watch

Tonight was shaping up to offer a match-up between two very exciting young players, Bongokuhle Hlongwane on the left wing against Portland’s right back, Juan Mosquera. With 5 goals on the year and making the MLS Team of the Matchday 13, Hlongwane seems to be coming into his potential, even as his team-leading 36 turnovers and low 46.5% dribbling success rate leaves room for improvement. Mosquera, meanwhile, has already contributed 2 goals and 3 assists from his right back position this season, and is quickly establishing himself as one of the league’s best backs. Lod’s injury may move Hlongwane to the right, spoiling the direct match-up, but it will still be fun to watch these two young players coming into their own.

A match-up that will present itself tonight is in the middle of Minnesota’s defense, as the Loon’s central back four, Micky Tapias, Michael Boxall, and whoever of Kervin Arriaga, Hassani Dotson, or Wil Trapp gets the start in defensive midfield, try to contain Portland’s new DP playmaker, Evander. After an injury plagued slow start to his MLS campaign, the 24-year-old Brazilian, acquired for a reported $10 million transfer, has found his form, contributing on 5 goals in Portland’s last 4 games (3g, 2a), and making the MLS Team of the Matchday 12 and Matchday 10, on the bench for Team of the Matchday 11 and Matchday 9, being named Player of the Matchday 12, and getting Goal of the Matchday 12. The sometime #10, sometime second forward is playing with a lot of freedom and will be a challenge for Minnesota’s central four to keep track of.



Out: Bakaye Dibassy (thigh)

Ryen Jiba (knee)

Mikael Marqués (ankle)

*Robin Lod (knee)


Out: David Ayala (L knee)

Pablo Bonilla (R hamstring)

Felipe Mora (L knee)

Eryk Williamson (R knee)