Phoenix Rising FC travel to Providence Park in Portland, Oregon to play Portland Timbers 2 on Saturday, October 5, 2019. It is the second and final USL Championship regular season match-up of the year between these two clubs, and is also the final road match of the season for Phoenix. Following their record 20 match winning streak, Phoenix has now suffered a loss to Fresno FC, and and drawn with New Mexico United in their past 2 matches. In spite of this slight bump in the road, Phoenix was able to wrap up the USL regular season title, thus ensuring that Portland will be the final road match that they play this season. Even though they didn't need the point against New Mexico to secure the league's best record, the 2nd half comeback to secure the draw was important in the inaugural Four Corners Cup competition. The result put Phoenix at 9 points, and New Mexico at 11. New Mexico cannot earn anymore points, thus meaning a win by either Phoenix or Real Monarchs on the October 12th would give them the title, or if that game results in a draw, then it will be New Mexico taking home the Cup.
When Phoenix and Portland last met, it was a match-up of 1st place vs 2nd place. While Phoenix is still in 1st, Portland has free-fallen all the way down to 12th, and looks in danger of missing the playoffs. Their form of late hasn't been good either. So far in the month of September, they have a record of 1-0-3, with that only victory coming against the last place Tacoma Defiance. As things stand right now, Portland sits on 38 points, which is 3 points out of the last playoff position. With 4 games to play, and in this kind of a position, it has reached the point in the season where every game is a must win for Timbers 2.
Portland Timbers 2 vs Phoenix Rising Vital Information
Referee assignments have the referee as Luis Guardia, with Christian Clerc and Joshua Haimes as the assistants, and Eric Krueger as the 4th official. On the discipline report, neither team has anyone suspended, but Phoenix has Kevon Lambert, and Portland had Dairon Asprilla under caution, and the a booking for either of these players tonight will result in a one-game-suspension.
This will be the 13th meeting all-time between the Portland Timbers 2 and Phoenix Rising. In the previous 12 meetings, Phoenix has won 6 times, Portland has won 5 times, and there has been 1 draw. The most recent of those was a 4-2 Phoenix win at Casino Arizona Field in Arizona on June 29, 2019. It was one of the most exciting matches of the season, and included a pair of goals by Amadou Dia, one of which can be seen on our videos page. It should also be noted that Phoenix knocked Portland out of the playoffs last season, a 3-0 win at Casino Arizona Field on October 19, 2019. Portland's last win in the series came just 6 days prior to that, a 1-0 win, also at Phoenix.
Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked
Portland's problem is the same that any "reserve team" has in that anytime the parent club (in their case the Portland Timbers) needs one of their players, they are out of luck. Timbers 2 are a different team when they have Dairon Aspirilla on the pitch. Seeing that he has scored 9 goals in 9 appearances pretty much says it all. Of course, with just 9 appearances, it means that more often than not he has been with the parent club, especially recently. He did make an appearance for Maderas Dos (yes I just made that up) as recently as September 20th (an appearance that he had 2 goals and an assist in), but its hard to imagine that he will be available tonight considering the MLS Timbers have a must win game Sunday afternoon against the San Jose Earthquakes. Portland still has plenty of guys capable of putting the onion in the bag. The trio of Foster Langsdorf, Ryan Sierakowski, and Brayan Hurtado have combined to score 20 goals.
Scoring never has been the issue for Portland. The 57 goals they have scored this season is good enough to rank 4th in the conference. On the other hand, the 56 they have allowed is more than all but 4 other teams. They have allowed 2 or more goals in each of their past 4 games, including a match on September 14, 2019 against Real Monarchs where they conceded 4 times. Like most reserve teams, they have an inconsistent goalkeeping situation, and have had 3 different keepers see significant minutes this year. It doesn't seem like this is where the blame can quite be placed though, as they have combined for a solid 66% save percentage between them. Looking at shots taken against, Portland Timbers 2 goalkeepers have faced 164 shots on target this season. By comparison, Phoenix goalkeepers have seen 119 shots on target this season, with one additional game played. The Phoenix keepers have kept out a higher percentage (75%), but at the end of the day it's going to be a lot harder on a keeper to keep the sheets clean if they are seeing almost 2 more shots per match.
Of course I could not have written this article this week without mentioning super-sub Joey Calistri, who was literally the man of the hour in New Mexico last week. He came on for just 28 minutes last Saturday, but in that time he managed to score both Phoenix goals. The first came from such an impossible angle that you have to see it for yourself to believe it was even possible. The second was a ripper from outside the box, that was a worldie in its own right. Those goals brought up his total to 6 on the season, with just a tick over 1000 minutes played. It is without a doubt that on just about any other team Calistri would be a regular starter, and likely well into double figures in scoring. It is the ability to bring a guy like Calistri off the bench that separates Phoenix's roster depth from the other clubs that they are facing.
One person I haven't written about nearly enough this season is Phoenix Rising manager Rick Schantz. This is a guy who in his first full season as manager, has brought in a whole new roster, implemented a whole new system, and turned his club into world beaters. Last week, showing the confidence to make aggressive substitutions to bring in attacking players like Calistri further proves that he has his finger on the pulse of his roster. From afar this season may look like a cakewalk to an outsider, but it really has been anything but. For example, making the choice to go with Zac Lubin over established starter Carl Woszcyznski was a major decision that could have ultimately divided the locker room. Having the confidence to make such decisions can be a difficult thing for young managers. Not only that, but even earlier in the season when some fans were questioning things such as lineup choices, Schantz has handled every situation with absolute class.
Taking a look at the betting line, it seems like the oddsmakers are fairly certain that Phoenix is going to put the hammer down (or should I say ax) down on the Timbers tonight. A bet on the home side to sin is going at +340, meaning that a $10 bet on Timbers 2 to win would pay back $44. Conversely, Phoenix is going off the board at -175, meaning a $10 bet on Phoenix to win will pay you back just $15.80. Anytime you have to bet almost $2 for every $1 you can win, that means the oddsmakers are pretty certain that is the side they will be paying out on. Furthermore, when it's a home team facing those kind of odds. A draw is going off at +275, or a $37.50 payout on a $10 bet, which means the pros don't think there is much chance of that happening.
Portland Timbers 2 vs Phoenix Rising Prediction
Portland needs this game more than Phoenix does, and they have it at home, otherwise there isn't much reason to think that they can win. Phoenix has 3 matches left to tune up for the playoffs, and they are going to be hungry after going 2 weeks without a win. Teams that have given Phoenix trouble have been those that have laid back and played a conservative (park the bus) type of game plan. Ultimately, that just isn't Portland's game, and their struggling defense has little chance of shutting down the highest powered offense the league has ever seen. I am going to go with 3-1, and realistically this might be a conservative estimate.
Prediction: Phoenix Rising - 3 Portland Timbers 2 - 1