Diego Valeri - Portland Timbers - Celebrates Goal

Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United FC
2017 MLS Regular Season - Week 1
Providence Park - Portland, Oregon
Friday, March 3 - 9:30 pm ET
WATCH: FS1, FOX Deportes

A club with championship ambitions and an established core that was further strengthened by astute offseason acquisitions welcomes an expansion side still taking shape, fueled by a start-up’s adrenaline and a desire to prove the skeptics wrong in their first-ever match. That’s Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United FC – the match that officially kicks off the 2017 MLS season on Friday night, March 3.

Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United FC | 2017 MLS Match Preview - https://league-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/images/season-preview-2017_640x395.png

2017 Season Preview

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All-Time Series

This is the first time the teams have played in an official competition in MLS. However, the two organizations previously met in the lower division USL back in 2010, the Minnesota organization’s first season as a club and Portland’s final USL season before joining MLS.

The Timbers and Loons (Minnesota's nickname after the state bird) also played each other most recently during the Portland preseason tournament on February 12. MNUFC jumped out to a shock 2-0 road lead on a Johan Venegas double before the Timbers starters entered the match and lifted their side level in a 2-2 final (highlights below).


Referee: Chris Penso
Assistant Referees: Jeremy Hanson (bench side), Cameron Blanchard (far side)
4th Official: Baboucarr Jallow

Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United FC | 2017 MLS Match Preview - https://league-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/images/PORMINjerseys.png

Portland Timbers

The Timbers come in with a chip on their shoulder after missing the MLS Cup Playoffs and failing to defend their 2015 title. But with the additions of ball-hounding defensive midfielder David Guzman and playmaking winger Sebastian Blanco, the Timbers are arguably more stacked and explosive than they’ve ever been in their MLS existence. And those acquisitions carry a ripple effect: They allow the dynamic Diego Chara to push higher up the field and slick possession man Darlington Nagbe to operate on the left wing, where the Timbers vow he will be most productive.

  • Suspended: None
  • Injured: DF Gbenga Arokoyo (ruptured Achilles tendon)
  • Int’l Duty: FW Jeremy Ebobisse (US U-20s)

Projected Timbers Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Jake Gleeson – Vytas Andriuskevicius, Liam Ridgewell, Lawrence Olum, Alvas Powell – David Guzman, Diego Chara – Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco – Fanendo Adi

Notes: Costa Rican international defender Roy Miller will reportedly join the team on March 6 after wrapping up CONCACAF Champions League participation with Deportivo Saprissa, who were eliminated in the quarterfinals. Miller can play at left back and center back if necessary … The Timbers are pursuing a starting caliber center back after Gbenga Arokoyo suffered a season-ending injury on Jan. 30. MLS veteran Lawrence Olum, who was brought in as cover at defensive midfield, has proven more than capable as a fill-in thus far.

Minnesota United FC

Minnesota’s preseason record (0-2-5) feeds into the narrative of an expansion team that’s going to need more time to find its on-field identity. The squad, steadily assembled throughout the offseason, features interesting pieces: experienced defenders (Calvo, Demidov), skillful possession-based midfielders (Schuller, Warner, Saeid) and explosive wingers and attackers (Gatt, Molino, Ibarra, Venegas, Danladi). Now whether they can function like a fine-tuned machine is up to new head coach Adrian Heath, who has promised high energy and fight in every match, a style reminiscent of his teams in Orlando.

  • Suspended: None
  • Injured: FW Abu Danladi (back in training on Tuesday after missing a week with back spasms)
  • Int’l Duty: None

Projected MNUFC Starting XI: John Alvbage – Justin Davis, Francisco Calvo, Vadim Demidov, Jermaine Taylor – Rasmus Schuller, Collen Warner – Bashkim Kadrii, Johan Venegas, Kevin Molino – Christian Ramirez

Notes: Swiss defender Jerome Thiesson is reportedly yet to join the team due to visa paperwork … Defender Vadim Demidov was named captain and left back Justin Davis as vice captain.

OPTA Facts

  • Since 1998, expansion teams are 4-7-3 in their inaugural MLS match (including Houston in 2006) and only the 1998 expansion Chicago Fire were able to win their first game on the road.
  • The Timbers won nine of their final 11 home MLS regular season matches in 2016 (9-1-1 record). They outscored their opponents by 24-11 across those 11 games.
  • Of the 1,627 touches that Portland’s Darlington Nagbe took in the 2016 MLS season, only 34 touches came in the opposition penalty box (2.1 percent).