The Portland Timbers travel to Lower.com Field on Sunday afternoon as the Columbus Crew look to once again avenge a disappointing result. An 82nd minute defensive breakdown saw the Black & Gold drop points to Inter Miami on the road on Tuesday, making for a second consecutive match in which Columbus left points on the table in the team’s push for an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
The Timbers, on the other hand, have not been plagued with disappointing results as of late. Portland takes a four-match win streak into Sunday’s contest, a streak that includes wins against the Seattle Sounders, Atlanta United, Minnesota United and a road victory at Austin FC. Despite the run of excellent form, the Timbers still remain in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, so they have everything to play for this weekend.
There is plenty for the Crew to play for as well. With four matches remaining in the regular season, and holding only a slight advantage for the seventh spot in the East, Sunday’s match represents a must-win game for the Black & Gold.
Columbus and head coach Caleb Porter will be without team captain Jonathan Mensah on Sunday, as the Ghanaian center back is out with a thigh injury he sustained just before halftime in Tuesday’s match at Miami. Beyond Mensah, all other senior team members should be available for selection.
With all of the above being said, here is who Massive Report believes will line up for the Crew for Sunday’s match against Portland:
As mentioned above, with Mensah out due to injury, expect Josh Williams to step into the starting 11 as the club captain’s natural replacement. The pairing of Williams and Degenek is an intriguing storyline heading into Sunday’s match, as it will be the first time the two have started with one another in a two-center-back system, and only the second time all season the pairing will be on the pitch at the same time in a two-center-back system.
With a question mark at center back, it is a welcomed site to see Pedro Santos return at left back. Santos returned in the 78th minute at Inter Miami, after missing the previous four matches due to injury. The Portuguese veteran entered the match Tuesday night at left wing, a position he has played most during his time with the Black & Gold, with the exception of this season.
Despite the playing time at left wing, expect Santos to return to left back as it seems as though that tactical choice by Porter was more a result of game state than a foreshadowing of things to come. However, with how Will Sands played in Santos’ absence, it is nice for Porter to know he can move Santos to left wing if need be and Columbus will be covered at the left back position.