Preview: Portland Timbers vs Nashville SC

After a midweek loss in Columbus, the Boys in Gold travel to Portland to face the Timbers Sunday. Despite the recent loss, the Cascadia side seems to be enjoying a run of good results.

Match info

Teams: Portland Timbers vs Nashville SC
Referees: Jon Freemon (Ref), Chris Wattam (AR1), Eduardo Jeff (AR2), Brandon Stevis (Fourth), Kevin Terry Jr (VAR), Craig Lowry (AVAR)
Odds: POR (-135), Draw (+320), NSH (+275)
Date: Saturday, July 7, 2024
Time: 9:30 pm CT, Providence Park, Portland, Oregon, United States
TV: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV
TV Commentary: Tyler Terens & Kyndra de St. Aubin (English), Adrian Garcia Marquez & Francisco Pinto (Spanish)
Radio: 104.5 The Zone
Radio Commentary: Will Boling & Lucas Panzica
Forecast: 97°/63°. 93º at kickoff. Sunny. 0% chance of rain. 49% humidity. 2-8 mph wind.

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Head-to-head

This is the fourth match between these two teams. The Timbers have one win, while the other two meetings ended in a draw.

Portland Timbers
6th (West) | 30 points | 8W-6D-8L | +3 GD |
Last match: 3-2 loss at FC Dallas
Power Rankings: 13th

Availability Report

The Portland Timbers have been streaky under new head coach Phill Neville. After a fairly good start to the season, the Timbers went through a rough patch with no wins in nine MLS matches. Then in their following nine matches, they won six with just one loss. On Thursday, the Timbers lost their second game in 10 matches due to an own goal in the 87th minute. Before that, you’d have to go almost two months since their last loss.

Portland have also accumulated a respectable, yet not elite, 5W-3D-2L home record. On the other hand, they are elite in their goal scoring. They have scored the fifth most goals in the league and average 1.86 goals per match.

Their efficiency in front of goal does come at a cost. The Timbers have let in 38 goals thus far this season, ranking them amongst the worst in MLS. Conceding an average of 1.73 goals per match has hindered their ability to join the upper echelon of the Western conference.

Clearly the Timbers have an abundance of attacking talent. At the top of that list is Brazilian Designated Player Evander. He’s been one of the best in MLS in his position, finding the back of the net 10 times and contributing with 12 assists. The 2024 MLS All-Star facilitates the Timbers attack and is known for his long distance goals.

Evander’s “partners in crime” Jonathan Rodríguez and Felipe Mora have also been extremely important. The trio have combined for 28 goals and 19 assists, making them one of the most potent attacks in MLS.

Starting goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau and center back Kamal Miller will miss the match due to their international duty with Canada. Former Boy in GoldEric Miller will also miss the match due to an injury, along with Marvin Loria and Zac McGraw.

Nashville SC
7th (East) | 26 points | 6W-8D-7L | -3 GD |
Last match: 2-0 loss at Columbus Crew
Power Rankings: 18th

Availability Report

After an impressive start to the Rumba Munthali era, things are regressing to the mean for the Boys in Gold. In the nine games Munthali has been in charge, Nashville’s record is evenly split with three wins, draws and losses. It will soon be up to BJ Callaghan to lift Nashville back up.

The eye test and the stats indicate that Nashville currently are a mid table team. They are one good run away from solidifying their playoff spot. At the same time, they are one bad run away from falling below the line. 

Nashville lost their last two matches, but losing to the Supporters Shield leaders and the best team in MLS is hardly something to be ashamed of. That said, Nashville have only been able to maintain their spot in 7th because the teams around them are failing as well. Nashville cannot afford to stand still and will need to gain more points soon.

Nashville’s entire MLS goal tally (24) is four goals fewer than the aforementioned Portland trio. The attack has largely been start-stop, with injuries, bad form and international duty getting in the way. 

Nashville have especially been bad away from home, and a lot of those struggles have to do with the lack of attacking threat. In nine matches they’ve earned nine points from a possible 27, and only scored six times. Even when the defense limits the opponent, Nashville still needs its attackers to finish the job.

There are some glimpses of hope from Nashville’s attack, especially with the emergence of youngster Forster Ajago. That said, he is incredibly raw and the Boys in Gold need to rely on veteran players like Hany Mukhtar and Sam Surridge until Ajago matures.

The defense has been largely stable under Munthali, allowing eight goals in nine matches and earning four clean sheets. The biggest Nashville problem continues to be the connectivity between the defense and attack. Though most issues are improving under the interim head coach, Nashville still struggle to create much with the ball.

Striker-turned-left-winger Sam Surridge missed the last match due to an injury, and it is unclear if he will participate on Sunday. Jacob Shaffelburg continues to be on international duty with Canada into the Copa América semifinals, while Shaq Moore has returned to Nashville after the United States’ exit in the group stage.

Aníbal Godoy, Randall Leal and Lukas MacNaughton continue to be out due to their long term injuries, but should be back before too long.

Pod Picks

Chris Ivey

Score: Nashville 0-1 Portland
Scorers: Evander
MOTM: Evander
Bold Prediction: Jack concedes a second half PK that buries Nashville.

Ben Wright

Score: Nashville 2-1 Portland
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar, Tyler Boyd
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville concede in the last 10 minutes to make the match look closer than it is

Jeff Remlinger

Score: Nashville 1-2 Portland
Scorers: Forster Ajago
MOTM: Forster Ajago
Bold Prediction: NSC is well beat. Portland 2.5+ xG NSC under .5 xG. But Ajago grabs one back at the end

Valair Shabilla

Score: Nashville 2-2 Portland
Scorers: Tyler Boyd, Forster Ajago
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Mukhtar gets two assists.

Ronan Briscoe

Score: Nashville 1-1 Portland
Scorers: Forster Ajago
MOTM: Joe Willis
Bold Prediction: No way I get this completely wrong two games in a row. So for real this time, Shaq Moore plays a full 90 and helps Nashville scrape a draw

Fan Forecast

Author: Valair Shabillamoved to Nashville as a refugee from Iraq at the age of 14. A fan of soccer from a young age, he used soccer to connect with a larger community in Nashville and adapt to life abroad. He's covered Nashville SC since 2019, co-hosting Pharmaceutical Soccer, and analyzing soccer from an audio/video perspective.

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