Fresno FC will travel to Providence Park to play the Portland Timbers 2 this Sunday, June 16, 2019. It is the first USL Championship match-up of the year between the two Western Conference adversaries. Portland comes into the game with 23 points, currently good enough for 3rd position in the conference by means of their +8 goal difference, compared with 4th place El Paso Locomotive FC, who has an identical record with a +7 goal difference. Fresno is not far behind in 5th, with 21 points and also have a +8 goal difference. These numbers tell the story of just how close the standings are out West.
These two clubs look pretty evenly matched on paper, and given the importance of this match in the standings, expect both teams to pull out all of the stops to try to win this one. They come into the match on similar runs of form as well, both clubs have 2 wins, 2 draw, and 1 loss over their past 5 games. Both clubs played their most recent match on June 8, 2019, so they will be coming into the game with similar amounts of rest. The two will meet for the second and final time of this regular season at Fresno on July 20, but this could easily be an early round playoff preview given their respective positions in the standings.
Portland Timbers 2 vs Fresno FC Vital Information
Referee assignments have referee Elton Garcia at center pitch, with Baboucarr Jallow and Jeremy Davis as the assistants, and Ian Miller will be the 4th official.
This will be the 3rd meeting all time between Portland Timbers 2 and Fresno FC. In the previous 2 meetings, Fresno has won 1 time, Portland is winless, and there has been 1 draw. It was a draw in the most recent of those, 2-2, at Chukchansi Park, back on September 22, 2018. The first meeting between the two, at Portland on July 8, 2018 was a 4-2 victory by Fresno.
Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked
Portland Timbers 2 are lead in scoring by 27-year-old Columbian forward Dairon Asprilla who is currently on loan from the parent club Portland Timbers. The veteran forward has been with the Portland organization since 2015, making a total of 96 appearances for the MLS side including postseason. This season he has bounced back and forth, making 4 MLS appearances, and netting his team leading 6 goals for Timbers 2 in just 5 appearances.
The Foxes of Fresno FC have not exactly been offensive juggernauts this season, averaging just over one and a half goals per game. They also don't have any single player on the squad with 5 or more goals. Qudus Lawal and Jemal Johnson are tied for the team lead with 4 each. They have managed to spread around scoring a bit, as 6 players have scored at least twice. Veteran Brazilian Midfielder Jackson has tallied a club best 5 assists.
Both of these clubs have improved considerably from where they placed last season. Fresno, in just their second year of existence are looking to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Timbers 2, who finished 6th in the Western conference in 2018, are are looking to make the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Previously, they had missed the playoffs in their first 3 USL seasons, including finishing dead last, 15th in the table, in 2015.
How good has The Foxes's defense been this year? They have allowed just a 41 shots on target through 13 games, meaning their goalkeeper CJ Cochran has seen and average of just 3.15 shots per game. Of those 41, he has stopped 28 of them, putting his save percentage at 68%. Anything above 70% is generally considered to be elite. Cochran is in his 4th season in the USL, but is getting his first shot as a full time starter. In 2018, he had a 72% save percentage, with 2 clean sheets in 8 starts for Nashville SC. In 2017, he registered an even more impressive 76% save percentage, with 4 clean sheets in just 10 starts for Oklahoma City Energy FC. At just 27-years-old, he could turn into a staple in goal for Fresno.
A player to keep an eye on for Portland is, forward Foster Langsdorf who has recorded 4 goals and 2 assists and 10 appearances so far this season. The 23-year-old, also made his MLS debut with the parent club against San Jose Earthquakes back on April 6, 2019. He seems to be fully recovered from an offseason, arthroscopic knee surgery, but hasn't had much luck finding a spot on the MLS roster in spite of his impressive pedigree. Langsdorf was a 2 time Pac-12 Conference Men's Soccer Player of the Year while at Stanford University, and is the Pac 12 All-Time goal scoring leader with 35 goals in his college career. Don't be surprised to see him make a move during the transfer period, as recent reports have him less than thrilled about playing in the 2nd division.
Portland Timbers 2 vs Fresno FC Prediction
These two clubs are as evenly matched as it gets, but they have very different ways of getting there. Portland's strength is on offense, where their 28 goals are good enough for third in conference, but the 20 goals they have allowed are middle of the pack. Fresno, on the other hand, has the stingiest defense in the concert, having allowed just 13 goals through 13 games. Their 21 goals scored put them middle of the table in the category. I expect that Fresno will look to slow the pace down, because a high scoring game is likely to favor Portland. Both teams appear to be relatively free of injuries, suspensions, or players away on international duty, so we are likely to see both squads put their best lineup on the field. If Portland jumps out to an early lead, then Fresno could be in trouble because they don't have the firepower to come back. That being said, they have allowed more than 1 goal just 3 times all season, and I expect them to be able to control the pace. These two clubs are no stranger to draws, having already combined for 11 on the season, and it is hard to find two clubs that are any more even on paper. Look for each team to walk away from Sunday with a hard fought point.
Prediction: Portland Timbers 1 Fresno FC 1