Timbers hope to get back in swing of things

The Portland Timbers are amidst a two-week break for World Cup action, but that break will come to an end Friday when Portland returns to Providence Park to take on Sporting Kansas City.
Portland currently has 20 points, which puts them in sixth place in the Western Conference. The top five teams make the playoffs, and with only nine games left in the regular season for Portland, every game is becoming increasingly important.
The Timbers can blame their current position in the
standings on a bad start this season, where they went winless in their first nine games. But they have pulled it together since then, specifically on the road where Portland has won their last three games away from Providence Park.
Now the Timbers are only two points out of third place in the West, but home cooking isn’t necessarily the way Portland is going to catch all the other potential playoff teams. Their last Major League Soccer home game resulted in a loss to Cascadian Cup rival Vancouver Whitecaps, in which Portland found themselves down 4–1.
Even with the World Cup break, the Timbers still had a U.S. Open Cup match against Orlando City’s U-23 squad. Portland easily beat the opposing side at Providence Park last Tuesday, with two goals from forward Gaston
Fernandez. Fernandez scored both of his goals in the first half, including putting home a penalty after forward
Maximiliano Urruti was taken down in the box.
Even bigger than the Timbers’ performance in the U.S. Open Cup was the return of midfielder Rodney Wallace, who tore his ACL last season. Wallace had not played in an MLS game all season. If
Wallace returns to his form from last season, it could mean a lot for the Timbers’ attack. Wallace had a breakout season last year, in which he put in seven goals and added
six assists.
Steve Zakuani has been starting where Wallace would normally play, but the Timbers have played a lot of different starting 11s this season, which is good news for Wallace, who wants his starting position back.
“Wallace and who should start at midfielder?” is a question the Timbers have at this point in this season. But up front, Portland doesn’t have to question how they’re scoring goals with Fanendo Adi. Adi has been filling the stat line ever since he started for Portland. His performances have included two braces on the road and opening up the field for other midfielders like Diego Valeri to create and score
goals himself.
Adi will have to keep coming up big for Portland to make a push into this playoff race. The road doesn’t get any easier for Portland after Sporting KC, when they go on a road trip to two of the hardest places to play in the MLS: Seattle and Los Angeles. The Seattle crowd is always extra excited to welcome the Timbers, and of course Portland fans do travel well to their sister city. The Galaxy are a solid squad that has seen an increased output from forward Landon Donovan after he was cut from the U.S. World Cup squad.
However the lineup and matches play out, let’s hope the Timbers capitalize on World Cup fever and give Portland soccer fans something to keep cheering about.