CD DRAGÓN vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS
ESTADIO CUSCATLÁN, San Salvador, El Salvador
Sept. 27, 2016 (CONCACAF Champions League)
10 pm ET (UDN | facebook.com)
The Portland Timbers still have a chance to get out of their CONCACAF Champions League group – but they'll have to come away from Central America with a result to keep that chance alive.
The Timbers are on three points after two matches ahead of Tuesday's away date with Salvadoran side CD Dragón, who are already eliminated from contention with just one point from three matches. Costa Rican power Deportivo Saprissa have seven points from three matches, but a victory or draw for the Timbers on Tuesday would set up an all-the-marbles group stage finale on Oct. 19 at Providence Park.
Lose in El Salvador, though, and the reigning MLS Cup champions will just be playing out the string next month. A draw would still keep Portland in contention, but they would then need to beat Saprissa either 2-0 or 3-1, or by three-plus goals, in October to advance on the away-goals or goal differential tiebreakers.
One point in the Timbers' favor going in is that they have a hot CCL scorer in Diego Valeri, who has connected in each of their first two group-stage matches and also found the back of the net in a 3-1 league loss to Houston on Saturday.
Home and Away 1
Portland opened group play with a 2-1 home victory over Dragón on Aug. 3, but it wasn't easy. The Timbers needed a 90th-minute goal from Valeri to secure all three points, despite dominating in possession throughout the match – and that was with the homefield advantage that Providence Park provides.
Winning on the road, on the other hand, has been another matter. The Timbers haven't done it this season. At all. They're 0-9-6 away in MLS action and 0-1-0 in CCL play. Considering that they're clinging to the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, and two of their final three regular-season league games are on the road, a victory on Tuesday would have to give Portland a needed shot of confidence heading into a travel-heavy final stretch run.
Home and Away 2
If there's a team capable of stifling an opponent's attack at home, it's Dragón. On Aug. 18, Los Mitologicos went to Saprissa and got shelled 6-0. A week later, at home, they held the group leaders to a scoreless draw behind five saves from goalkeeper Henry Hernández.
Offense could be a problem, though, given that Dragón haven't scored in CCL play since the 77th minute of their opener in Portland and have just nine goals in 11 league games so far in their 2016 Apertura domestic season.
Never easy in Central America
Portland have won on the road before in CCL play – but that was on the north coast of South America, when they beat Guyanese side Alpha United 4-1 away in the 2014-15 group stage. They're 0-2-0 in Central America, including a 4-2 away defeat to Deportivo Saprissa on Sept. 14.
The Timbers felt hard done by the officiating in that loss, though – especially by a pair of penalty kicks that were awarded to the hosts, The decisions left manager Caleb Porter fuming that his side "were playing against 12 men today, and I’m not talking about the crowd.”
- Timbers.com: El Salvador's changing soccer culture