No matter how many Portland players might be missing Saturday night in Atlanta – and the latest figure is eight — Atlanta United coach Gonzalo Pineda says he knows better than to overlook the Timbers.
“If I know something about Portland, it’s they’re always competitive,” said Pineda, who faced the Timbers many times as a player and assistant coach for the Seattle Sounders, Portland’s fiercest rival. “So, I don’t think they’re a team that are going to be feeling sorry for themselves for having a lot of injuries. They are going to come with everything trying to beat us.”
Among the Timbers (1-2-0, 3 points) expected to miss the game are standouts Sebastian Blanco (knee), Yimmi Chara (hamstring), Cristhian Paredes (hamstring) and Evander (hip).
“It’s unfortunate,” Timbers midfielder Eryk Williamson said of the injury issues. “It’s part of the game, and ultimately we have to know that it’s the next man up. Guys have to be ready to play. We’ve got a roster full of guys that are ready to step up and make their mark on the team.”
Portland is coming off a 2-1 home loss to St. Louis City, as the expansion team rallied after the Timbers’ Zac McGraw headed in a corner kick in the third minute of the match.
But just nine minutes later, Evander — the Brazilian attacking midfielder for whom Portland paid a club-record transfer free to acquire in the offseason — came off the field with the hip injury.
The Timbers finished with just three shots on goal as St. Louis scored in extra time of the first half and midway through the second.
“We put a good fight with good energy, but we need to make better decisions in the final third,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. “If we make some better decisions in the final third, we can capitalize and take advantage of those moments that we had. … We got too comfortable in the game.”
Atlanta (2-0-1, 7 points) is off to the franchise’s best start after a 3-0 victory last weekend against Charlotte. Caleb Wiley had two goals and an assist for the Five Stripes, becoming the fifth-youngest player in league history (18 years, 79 days) to contribute to at least three goals in a match.
This will be Portland’s first trip to Mercedes Benz Stadium since losing the 2018 MLS Cup final 2-0 to host Atlanta.
–Field Level Media