TIGARD, Ore. – After being forced into three early substitutions in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals on Monday, the Portland Timbers find themselves in a position that has become all too familiar over the course of the 2017 season: dealing with injuries to key players across the pitch.
Now, however, the Timbers don’t have any room for error. They’ll need to draw on their depth if they want to advance past the Houston Dynamo in Leg 2 of their Western Conference Semifinal series on Sunday at Providence Park (7:30 pm ET; FS1 in the US | TSN1, TVAS in Canada).
The Timbers’ section of the injury report is impressive, featuring Designated Players Fanendo Adi and Sebastian Blanco, starters Darlington Nagbe, Larrys Mabiala and David Guzman and the side’s midfield lynchpin, Diego Chara.
Chara, who underwent surgery on Friday morning to repair a broken fifth metatarsal suffered on Monday in Houston, will miss the remainder of the season, but the rest of the injured Timbers remain questionable. That’ll leave head coach Caleb Porter with a difficult balancing act to pull off in constructing his starting XI.
“We lost three guys that had to come out of the match last game, and two guys that normally start each game, didn’t start. And then Adi hasn’t been in. That is five or six guys that are key guys,” Porter said after training on Friday. “But we have dealt with it all year. That is the story of the season with this team: we have been able to manage a lot of adversity and that is why we were able to end the season [in first place in the West].”
Dealing with injuries and absences throughout the season has forced Porter to at times reach deep into his depth chart. The Timbers’ tough times earlier in the year are a strength that the team will call on to help them past the Dynamo with players like Roy Miller, Lawrence Olum and Dairon Asprilla likely stepping in to fill out the Timbers’ starting XI.
“At the end of the day we are going to put out a team that is going to attack and put out a team that is mindful of Houston’s attacks as well,” said Porter. “Will we have our first choice? Probably not. Will we have enough to go through? I think so, because this year we have shown that we can figure it out regardless. This will be no different. If anything, I think that we have good experience in dealing with [injuries] throughout the year.”
Of course, just who will be on the field for the Timbers will once again be a game-time decision as the side strive to get as many players healthy as possible before kickoff.
“We have got a squad that has shown a lot of fight,” said Porter. “They have shown to be a very emotionally and tactically intelligent team able to figure out how to win games. We are going to have to do the same in this game. We are going to have to figure out how to take the guys who are healthy and get through; figure out how to win this game so that we advance. That is what we have been doing all season long.”