BEAVERTON, Ore. – A series of setbacks have turned what was initially thought to be a short-term injury into a two-month absence for Portland Timbers striker Fanendo Adi, but Caleb Porter expects his star forward to play again this season.
Porter was understandably reluctant to volunteer information about Adi, who has been out since straining his hamstring on Aug. 6 against LA, in his midweek press conference on Tuesday. He told the press that there was “no update” on the Nigerian’s status, but did confirm that he thinks the target striker will return to the field at some point in 2017.
An Adi comeback would be big for the Timbers heading into the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, though their rampant scoring pace hasn’t dipped since he’s been out. Portland have turned to Jamaican forward Darren Mattocks to fill the void left at the top of their formation since Adi went out, and have gotten contributions from across the pitch to keep things clicking in the attack. The Timbers lead the West with 54 goals in 32 games heading into this Sunday’s match against D.C. (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE).
For Porter, the ability of his team to adjust and continue forward even in the absence of a player like Adi is key to their success.
“There is a lot of flexibility in [the 4-2-3-1 formation] with the personnel that we use and with attacking rotations and defensively where we are trapping teams,” said Porter. “One of the reasons that I believe in that system is that you can play it game in and game out and you don’t need to change it; you can change it with the personnel. That’s why I like different number nine’s, that’s why I like different wingers, different holding mids, different outside backs. That is how you change your team; you change it with the personnel.”
Where Adi is an imposing target striker, Mattocks brings a different look to the Timbers. He stretches opposing defenses with speed and looks to play off the back shoulder of his defender, leading to changes in approach from the Timbers all across the pitch.
“When Darren is in and Adi is out we have tried to play to [Darren’s] strengths and we have adopted a somewhat different style of play that suits him,” Porter said. “He is the spearhead of our pressure and he is obviously going to stretch a lot. He is not going to hold the ball like Adi, so we don’t ask him to hold the ball like Adi. We don’t ask him to play like Adi, we ask him to play like Darren.”