New York City Football Club take on Portland Timbers this weekend at Providence Park.
Hello Jeremy, thank you for chatting with us. How long have you been covering the Timbers, and what’s been your highlight?
This is my first season covering the Timbers, but I have been a fan for their entire existence in Major League Soccer. Every training session and every game I get to cover is a highlight, although the 4-1 victory over Seattle is the biggest one so far.
What are your thoughts on the team’s start to the season?
Starting the season in the midst of an injury crisis is always hard. For every player that returns from the injury list another one takes his place. With so much shuffling on the roster and insufficient coverage at some key areas (center back, central midfield, the wings) it is no surprise that the 2023 Portland Timbers are incredibly inconsistent. There are some very impressive results (Seattle home and away, St. Louis away, Vancouver home, Dallas home) but amongst those wonderful games are some real stinkers (Atlanta away, SKC away, St. Louis home, Minnesota home, Chicago home). All of these results show a team that is still incomplete but has the talent to push deep into the playoffs. It all depends on which Timbers team shows up. Sometimes the best performances end in defeat but some of the poorer performances result in 3 points (like Sporting Kansas City at home). Without any reinforcements in the summer transfer window, this team will need to be better than the sum of their parts to make the postseason.
What are your hopes for the 2023 season?
I think Leagues Cup in particular is a golden opportunity. I would love to see a deep run in Leagues Cup but just getting out of a group with a very good San Jose team and defending Liga MX champions Tigres will prove to be a tough task. Head Coach Giovanni Savarese is extremely good in knockout competitions, but advancement to the knockout round is going to be hard. In terms of the league, reaching the playoffs is the bare minimum expectation. Given the current table positioning, that's going to be another mountain to climb, but not as tough as advancing in Leagues Cup. Give me a Leagues Cup win and an 8th or 9th place finish in the West.
What do you think will be the deciding factor in Saturday’s game?
There are two players that have the ability to be the true difference-makers for the Timbers on Saturday night. The first is Santiago Moreno. He's been having a down year but had a great performance against Chicago on Wednesday. If he can find some consistent form he will be a handful for NYCFC's defense. The second is a name that NYCFC fans are very familiar with: Felipe Mora. Since his late equalizer in the 2021 MLS Cup, he has been limited to only a couple of substitute appearances due to injury. This includes missing the majority of last season and all of 2023 up until this point.
However, he is scheduled to make his season debut against the team that gave him his most iconic moment in a Timbers jersey. Although he probably won't see more than 20 minutes of game time, the impact of his return on the locker room will be massive. Plus, as NYCFC fans know, all he needs is one opportunity. My honorable mention is Evander. While the goal involvements aren't consistently coming, he's been a massive creative force in the attack. I didn't list him as a true difference-maker because I expect him to lead the attack, the difference-makers are the ones who turn his deliveries and final balls into goals.
And for anyone that may be in Portland for the game are there any spots you would suggest they check out?
My go-to spot for a pregame meal is Maya's Taqueria. It's only a few blocks from the stadium at 10th and Morrison and it's right next to a MAX station if you don't want to walk. The parking garage across the street at 10th and Yamhill is also a good spot to park. The Oregon Zoo is a good spot to check out before the game starts on Saturday. It is also accessible by the MAX and you can drive there if you choose to rent a car. The Portland Art Museum has a great collection of sculptures and paintings if you prefer to spend your time inside instead. To all traveling fans, have a good trip!
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