It is one of the weekend’s marquee matchups — expansion darlings LAFC take a six-match unbeaten streak to Providence Park to take on a Portland Timbers side that has won four straight games Saturday (3 pm ET | FOX — Full TV & streaming info).
But unlike previous weeks, our question we pose our esteemed panel doesn’t necessarily surround this game. It goes beyond the 90 minutes on Saturday.
We asked Senior Editors Ben Couch and Nick Rosano, National Writer Sam Stejskal, Senior Writer Matt Doyle, Senior Host and Producer Andrew Wiebe and contributors Alicia Rodriguez and Bobby Warshaw their thoughts on this question:
Who finishes higher in the Western Conference standings — LAFC or Portland?
COUCH: Portland. Once a team establishes a defensive identity and starts rolling up unexciting, yet consistent results, it's usually a clean ride to a top-two finish in the conference. And this Portland team has enough offensive firepower to keep things interesting when the D falters. The league will catch on — enough — to LAFC on the back end of the schedule that the Timbers take pole position in this race.
DOYLE: Already gave my #Baerantee that LAFC’s winning the West. It’s up on the wall and everything.
RODRIGUEZ: I'm going with LAFC here, because if the team stays healthy, I think once all the pieces arrive in the summer and Bob Bradley has substantial squad depth, they should be in good shape to stay the course.
ROSANO: Portland. LAFC have good depth, but with many of their World Cup players standing a chance to make the Knockout Round, the next month or two will afford the in-form Timbers (who also have a game in hand on LAFC) plenty of chances to catch up. From mid-July on, I like Portland's defense, and they have enough difference makers going forward to secure a top-two finish out West.
STEJSKAL: LAFC. They've got more top-end talent than the Timbers, and there's more on the way. They'll miss some big names during the World Cup, but I've got faith in Bob Bradley — and the incoming additions — to get them through. They'll finish top-two in the West. The Timbers won't.
WARSHAW: LAFC. Because they are better.
WIEBE: I’ll take LAFC. They’re equipped to get through the World Cup break without, potentially, four starters, and the schedule during late May through early July isn’t particularly daunting. This is a very good team already, and Bob Bradley has the luxury of adding Lee Nguyen, Adama Diomande, Andre Horta and whoever else they sign this summer to the mix. I won’t #Baerantee anything, but press me and I’d predict a third-place finish and a home game in the Knockout Round.