"Difference makers" Blanco and Guzman propel Portland's MLS Opening Weekend

PORTLAND—Hailed by Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter as “difference makers,” both Sebastian Blanco and David Guzman wasted no time on Friday showing exactly why they were worthy of such lofty designations during the Timbers' 5-1 victory over expansion debutant Minnesota United FC on Friday. 

Though their contributions to the traditional box score were perhaps limited, Porter – ever aware of the importance of analytics – found much to be happy about with his offseason acquisitions. 

Porter had already seen enough of Guzman as an opposing coach, as the midfielder played a key role on the Saprissa team that knocked Portland out of the 2016/17 CONCACAF Champions League last fall. 

Besides adding valuable protection to the back line, Guzman will be the cog charged with helping Portland maintain possession. It was not a flawless performance. Portland lost the possession battle, yet the Costa Rican international was often the focal point of the Timbers, leading both teams with 84 touches. 

Though Porter praised the Timbers' ability to contain the counter-attack, a key concern against a Minnesota squad that boasted Kevin Molino and Johan Venegas. However, Portland was unable to maintain the clean sheet, as Christian Ramirez broke through in the 79th minute. 

Porter admitted he'll “nitpick” over these details. While they lost the possession battle, Porter admitted, “[Minnesota] had a lot of possession but they rarely penetrated.” Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson was rarely troubled as Minnesota United only placed two shots on target. 

Blanco was every bit the two-way player as advertised, making plays up-and-down the right channel. On top of his three shots, the winger had nine ball recoveries.

What’s more, Blanco gives Porter one more agent of chaos he can unleash on opponents as was on full display in the 47th minute when Blanco found Diego Valeri to get his first assist of the season. 

The potential Blanco provides Porter more of the tactical flexibility that the Timbers coach has always wanted. “Now we have wingers come inside, we can push our full backs out in the flanks,” Porter said.

“When they want to score and when they want to play aggressive, it’s scary.”