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RSL vs. Portland scouting report: Can defensively miserable Timbers revamp?

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We’ve taken a closer look at Portland’s squad as it prepares for the 2017 season.

Columbus Crew SC v Portland Timbers Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

So far this spring, Portland has shown every intention of continuing on in the 4-2-3-1 formation featuring Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri with a couple of attacking wingers, a defensive midfielder tandem and a four man back line.

Having allowed 53 goals in 2016, the highest in the Western Conference, Portland has worked to add additional defensive depth along with a quality midfielder to assist the offensive. Here are brief looks at many of the Timbers players and the sole remaining trialist, now that Freddy Adu has left.

MLS: Desert Friendlies-Seattle Sounders vs Portland Timbers
Fanendo Adi
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Forwards

Fanendo Adi has been a consistent nightmare for RSL scoring at least one goal in each of their last four regular season meetings. The big Nigerian’s four goals against RSL were a full 25% of his team-leading 16 goals in 2016. Starting his fourth season at Portland, Adi has been in good form and scored the only goal in the match against Seattle last Saturday in Tucson with a nice header off a free-kick into the box by Valeri.

Darren Mattocks, who was traded to the Timbers by the Vancouver Whitecaps in March of 2016, is probably the current backup to Adi. In a situation reminiscent to that of Olmes Garcia and Yuri Movsisian last year, Adi tends to frequent the center of the pitch while Mattocks tends to play more out along the wings. Mattocks has also frequently played as a winger with Adi on the field in the center position. Mattocks struggled last year, scoring only a single goal in his 940 minutes on the field for Portland. While having good speed and skills, his weakness has always seemed to be in his ability to synch up with the other attacks on the field.

Jeremy Ebobisse was selected 4th overall in the 2017 draft after Portland sent $100,000 in allocation money, an international roster spot and the No. 10 overall pick in the draft to the Houston Dynamo. Currently in training camp with U-20 USMNT team in Florida, the Maryland native and former Duke Blue Devil will not be available for this match but should see time with Portland during the regular season.

Russell Cicerone was the 76th overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. He has been in camp with the Timbers, but will almost surely wind up with Timbers 2 or be released.

Jack McInerney who scored 5 goals for Portland last year is still with the team, but was left unprotected in the expansion draft and does not appear to be in their 2017 plans.

MLS: Desert Friendlies-Seattle Sounders vs Portland Timbers
Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Attacking Central Midfielder

Diego Valeri runs the Portland attack and provides a solid attacking spine behind Adi. Valeri started 30 matches for Portland last season and was among the leaders in minutes played. His 14 goals together with the 16 from Adi were 62.5% of all the goals scored by Portland last year. At 30 Valeri still has legs to run and is a master at free kicks. The extent that Valeri can integrate the two wingers into the attack goes a long way to determining how successful Portland will be on any given day. Valeri has had no true replacement on the Portland roster and production typically declined if one of the wingers had to take over his spot in the lineup due to injury or illness.

West Bromwich Albion v Hull City - Capital One Cup Third Round
Sebastian Blanco
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Attacking Wings

Sebastian Blanco is the Timbers big off-season DP acquistion from San Lorenzo de Almagro in Argentina for a reported transfer fee near $4 million, and an annual salary of approximately $1.3 million. While at San Lorenzo, Blanco scored 12 goals in all competitions over two years and served as a consistent playmaking presence from a variety of positions in midfield. A former teammate of Diego Valeri at Lanús, the 28-year-old is expected that he will play mainly on the left wing, although he is versatile enough to back up Valeri in the number 10 role. He has just joined the team and this game will be the Portland fans first chance to see him in action. It should be interesting to compare he and Rusnak as the season goes on.

Darlington Nagbe has been an integral part of the Portland attack since joining the league with Portland in 2011. Nagbe, who played collegiately at Akron under Caleb Porter, was happy to be reunited when Porter took over at Portland for the 2013 season when he scored 10 goals. Playing mainly on the left side during 2016, only 8 of his 39 shots were on goal and he scored only a single goal. Nagbe has been away with the US MNT in there January camp and this game will be his first chance to appear for Portland in what may be a rebound season.

Dairon Asprilla is a 24-year-old Columbian who originally signed with Portland for the 2015 season when he made 32 appearances with 13 starts and 2 goals. He all but disappeared early in the 2016 season and was sent back to Columbia on loan with Millionarios. Back in Portland for spring training he has been inconsistent at best seeming totally lost in one appearance and then all over the field in the next.

Victor Arboleda is another young Columbian who played with Timbers 2 during the 2016 season. He had 25 appearances for the USL side with 20 starts and 3 goals. Named to the USL 20 under 20, he was rewarded with a contact for the parent club in 2017. He has looked good during pre-season but somewhat handicapped by being a part of the “B” squad during these split squad games. Look for him to perhaps see some time with the starters just to see what happens.

Jack Barmby is a depth player who has shown no signs of challenging for starting time. The 22-year-old Englishman Made a single appearance for Timber 2 last year and may spend the bulk of his time with the USL squad this year.

Chivas USA v Portland Timbers
Diego Charra
Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Defensive Midfielders

Diego Charra is yet another Columbian who has been a mainstay for the Timbers since their inaugural 2011 season. Never having scored a goal against RSL, he tends to score through hard play and a willingness to mix it up with all comers including Javier Morales. Ever since the days of Will Johnson, however, it has been a struggle to find a consistent partner for him leading to a long career for Jack Jewsberry who just retired.

David Guzman is an off-season acquisition who played for Deportivo Saprissa the past eight seasons including two matches against Portland in 2016 during Champions League group play. With over thirty Costa Rican national team caps Guzman has seemed very comfortable during his first two preseason appearances in the Kyle Beckerman deep defensive role allowing Chara to take a larger part in the offense.

Lawrence Olum was acquired on February 3rd from Sporting Kansas City in exchange for $50,000 in General Allocation Money and the Timbers natural first-round pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. While he has played as a center back upon occasion he is expected to provide depth as a defensive midfielder. He looked fit against Seattle, but it is yet to be seen how he will fit into Portland’s defense.

Ben Zemanski is going into his fifth year with the Timbers. Another Akron player who knew Porter during his time there, Zemanski is at best a sport starter, he has not managed to find regular time but provides good depth. In 2016 he had 11 starts with 16 appearances, but finding another starter at defensive midfield was a focus of the offseason.

Amobi Okugo struggled to find time with the first team after moving to the Timbers in 2016. A regular starter with the Philadelphia Union form 2010 to 2014, his career has been a endless series of different teams since then.

Romilio Hernandez was the 80th overall pick in the 2017 MLS Superdraft and seems likely to be signed to a Timbers 2 contract.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Houston Dynamo
Liam Ridgewell
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Center Backs

Liam Ridgewell is apparently beyond the calf injuries that slowed him during the 2016 season and the off-season drunken driving charge has been dropped. A lock to start at one of the center back position, much of the the preseason is focused on finding a regular partner for him.

Gbenga Arokoyo is a 24-year-old Nigerian acquired in August of last year from Gaziantepspor in Turkey. Arokoyo looked set to challenge for a starting role as a center back before rupturing his achilles tendon during training in Arizona. He has since had surgery and will be out for the year. Too bad that the RSL faithful will not see this example of what a Turkish center back looks like.

Roy Miller the former New York Red Bull was also signed from Deportivo Saprissa druing the off-season but will not be released until Saprissa conclude Champions League play. Look for him to figure to quickly figure within the centerback duo once he arrives in Portland.

Rennico Clarke is a 21-year old Jamaican who spent the past two season playing for Timbers 2 before being offered a contract with the parent club this season. With the injuries and delays in reporting he appears to have fallen heir to the second center back spot for the time being. Can he pull a Justen Glad and haul down a starting spot for the season with this assistance?

Jhamir Ordain is the only remaining trialist with Portland now that Freddy Adu has left. A 23-year-old Costa Rican he has seemed adequate during his three appearances in the preseason and may yet receive a contract with the injury to Arokoyo if no other signing is imminent.

Michael Amick was the 32nd overall pick in the 2nd round of the 2017 SuperDraft but has been hampered by injuries and will likely wind up with Timbers 2.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Colorado Rapids
Alvas Powell
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Full Backs

Alvas Powell will be back with the Timbers following a full 90 minute appearance with the Jamaican national team against the United States in Chattanooga. The 22-year old seems a lock to be the first choice at right back this season following a 2016 season in which he had 23 starts and showed a great deal of development as a player.

Vytas Andriuškevičius appears to be adjusting to Portland well after being acquire in August of 2016. The 26-year-old Lithuanian seems to be set to challenge for time at left back although he has not stood out at all so far this spring.

Zarek Valentin had 20 appearances and 18 starts for Portland in 2016 which he joined from Bodo in Norway. Valentin’s style is more technical and positional than others on the team due to his limited speed.

Chance Myers was Sporting KC’s longest tenured player until his signed with the Timbers on January 23, 2017. At 29 Myers has seen his playing time steadily decrease due to injury and changes within the Sporting roster. He has looked relatively sharp this preseason and should bring some needed depth to the Timbers as he attempts to restart his career.

Marco Farfan was a homegrown signing in October of 2016. While Portland had three previous homegrown signings Farfan is the first who came up through their academy. Marko made 18 starts for Timbers 2 in 2016 and seems to have a bright future as a left fullback on the parent squad. Current Marko is away with the US U-19 MNT and will not return until February 10th.

Portland Timbers v New England Revolution
Jake Gleeson
Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Goalkeepers

Jake Gleeson seems set to return as the first string keeper although Jeff Attinella might be in a position to challenge for starting minutes. both have looked good so far in the preseason. Kendall McIntosh seems set to remain the third keeper and spend the bulk of the season with Timbers 2 unless injuries or trades open the first team to him.