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Crossing the Touchline: Talking Portland Timbers at Columbus Crew SC with Will Conwell of Stumptown Footy

Crew SC fans don't see the Timbers often, so we went to an expert to find out a little about Portland ahead of Saturday's game.

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

It's a big day for Columbus Crew SC and the Black & Gold fans. Not only does the club welcome the Portland Timbers to MAPFRE Stadium with a chance to clinch a playoff spot for the second straight year, but the team is also revealing the top five moments in the 20-year history and there will be plenty of former players in the house.

Crew SC currently sits in second place in the Eastern Conference on 47 points. Columbus doesn't want to drop below that in order to avoid the first round, one-game series in the MLS Cup Playoffs

The Black & Gold have just one loss in the last seven games, so they come in on good form.

Portland, on the other hand, has struggled of late. The Timbers haven't won in four games and are just one point on the right side of the Western Conference playoff line.

Both teams want three points out of this contest in what should be a magical night.

We talked out to Stumpytown Footy's Will Conwell to get some insight on Portland.

Conversation with Stumpytown Footy

Massive Report: Fanendo Adi is a player I've admired from afar the last two seasons and someone I thought would have worked perfectly in the Crew SC offense. He's Portland's leading scorer with 10 goals on the year. Why has he been so successful since coming over last year?

Stumpytown Footy: Fanendo Adi is a big, strong player who has lead the line for the Timbers for the last season and a half. The Timbers' second leading scorer in the prolific 2014 season despite joining the team several months in, Adi's ten goals this year make him the team's leading scorer so far in 2015, just squeaking by defender Nat Borchers whose three goals puts him in a tie for second place with Maximiliano Urruti.

It is hard to really break just what it is that has made Adi a successful goal scorer for the Timbers, mostly because most of the factors that could have been pointed to last season no longer apply. Adi has not been the beneficiary of excellent service from the wings and out of the midfield; Diego Valeri has not been testing keepers from distance and drawing defenders to create room for his striker; Urruti has not been effective off the bench or as a starter, keeping opposing teams off balance.

This year Adi has had pretty much one thing going for him: he is there. With nobody else in the Timbers's lineup providing a consistent goal scoring threat, it has been up to Adi to get stuck in, get on the ball, and put it away with little support around him.

Strangely, in recent weeks as Valeri has started to have more and more of an effect on the team and newcomer Lucas Melano has been added to the lineup, things have only gotten harder for Adi. Rather than being forced to be the focal point of the attack, he has been a part of a larger operation, one that is currently out of synch, and his production has suffered for it.

Description: In 2013, the Timbers took the Western Conference by storm, but last year, Portland missed the playoffs by one point and the team finds itself fighting for its playoff lives again in 2015. Why have the Timbers not been able to replicate the success of 2013 in each of the last two years?

SF: There are two ways to look at the Timbers' inability to match their 2013 success: internally and externally.

Looking inward, the Timbers started the following 2014 and 2015 seasons with big injuries to several players, starting slow and failing to put it all together as the year went on. 2014 was plagued by injuries to the Timbers' defenders, something that was reflected in the team's abysmal defensive record early in the year. 2015 started without Diego Valeri and Will Johnson, two key parts of the Timbers' attack in 2013 and 2014.

Externally, the Timbers' style of play in 2013, while not revolutionary, was at least uncommon in 2013. By the end of the year, however, it seemed clear that teams had figured the Timbers out, forcing Caleb Porter to adjust his tactics accordingly and with great success. Unfortunately, the lesson that Porter took from 2013 was to be practical in his tactical approach, willingly sacrificing the "Porterball" approach that so many enjoyed for direct or counter attacking tactics.

The Timbers' new approaches were, to a certain extent, effective, but required a reshaping of much of the team, nothing that the Timbers set about to do, most notably bringing in a target forward in Fanendo Adi and a speedy attacking player in Lucas Melano to make the concept work.

MR: For fans of Crew SC, who don't watch each MLS game, give a breakdown of what they should expect from Portland this weekend. Who are a few players people should keep their eyes on at MAPFRE Stadium and do you anticipate another open, back and forth affair like we had early last season?

SF: These days it is hard to tell what you are going to get out of the Timbers. Porter could set the team up to play a quick counterattacking style, welcoming on the Crew before launching a wave of Timbers back down the pitch, or he could look to get on the ball and stay there, suffocating the Crew with his own team's possession.

Or he could go with one game plan and his team could go with another, as seemed to be the case last weekend, when the Timbers spent much of the early game lumping the ball forward not to Fanendo Adi, but to the less aerially inclined Maximiliano Urruti.

Regardless of how the Timbers approach this match, the man to watch is Diego Valeri. While it has taken "The Maestro" most of the season to regain his top-level form, there have been signs recently that Valeri is back and ready to start contributing in a major way once again, rather than simply being a player on the pitch that everyone else is just waiting to do something fantastic.

For this one the Timbers will likely too to make an impression early in the match, pushing high up the pitch and looking to win possession in advanced areas. Adi will likely be back in the lineup after the experiment with Maximiliano Urruti at starter last week and the rest of the line up will almost certainly be kept intact as the Timbers try to remember what winning is like.

To see what Massive Report said to Stumptown Footy, head over to their site and read the responses.