Portland Timbers vs. Olimpia | CONCACAF Champions League Match Preview

Portland Timbers vs. Olimpia
2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League
September 16 | 10 pm ET | Providence Park
TV: Fox Sports 1, UDN

Portland Timbers fans will be treated to a CONCACAF Champions League for the first time when Honduran champion Olimpia come calling Tuesday night at Providence Park. The Timbers opened their foray into CCL with a successful – yet extremely long – trip to Guyana, where they defeated Alpha United 4-1. Olimpia, meanwhile, also dispatched of the Group 5 minnows in both of their meetings, a 1-0 victory on Aug. 5 at Guyana National Stadium and a 6-0 dismantling on Aug. 28 in Honduras. That leaves the two meetings between the Timbers and Olimpia, with the second set for Oct. 21 at Nacional Tiburcio Carías Andino, to likely decide who wins the group.

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OLIMPIA OVERLOOKED? Timbers head coach Caleb Porter has not understated the importance of CCL play, but the fact of the matter is that Tuesday’s game comes at an extremely crucial and tenuous time for Portland’s MLS Cup Playoff chances. Following their 2-2 draw Saturday to the Colorado Rapids, the Timbers are next facing Cascadia rival Vancouver Whitecaps in a Saturday showdown (8 pm ET; NBCSN) for the fifth and final Western Conference playoff spot. Portland trail Vancouver by just one point, meaning a victory would allow them to control their postseason destiny over the course of the season’s final five games.

HONDURAN FIREPOWER: Olimpia did not hold back in their last CCL outing, a 6-0 demolishing (highlights below) that in all likelihood sent Alpha United crashing out of the tournament, despite what happens in their Sept. 23 away meeting with the Timbers. Olimpia got a hat trick from Fredixon Elvir, a brace from Honduras international Anthony Lozano and a goal from Oliver Morazan Torres in the rout, which followed up their 1-0 victory over Alpha in their group opener. And Noel Valladares, the Honduran national team’s starting goalkeeper, has kept a clean sheet in both outings.

SQUAD ROTATION: Despite the Olimpia fireworks, Porter was not deterred in saying he'll keep with a squad rotation strategy to deal with the midweek CCL game sandwiched by two MLS contests. Of course, many of the players who could see action against Olimpia, such as Maximiliano Urruti, Kalif Alhassan, Michael Harrington, Jack Jewsbury and Steve Zakuani have all started games for Portland. Timbers captain Will Johnson will also start against Olimpia, Porter said, after he was held out of Saturday’s league game against Colorado.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

JACK JEWSBURY, PORTLAND – The Timbers first-ever captain has seen his league minutes dwindle over the past month with the emergence of young Jamaican international right back Alvas Powell. So getting back on the field with the first team in front of their home crowd will certainly be embraced by Jewsbury, who hasn’t seen action since Portland’s last CCL game in Guyana. And rather than playing on the backline, Jewsbury could be lining up next to Johnson in the midfield, where he was a fixture in Portland’s first two MLS seasons.

ANTHONY LOZANO, OLIMPIA – The Timbers will do well to keep all eyes on the 21-year-old forward, one of Olimpia’s most talented attackers who has seen time in Spain’s lower divisions before returning to his home country last year.