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Los Angeles FC-Timbers Preview
After playing 12 straight road games over the first three months of the season, the Portland Timbers are finally set to take to their new and improved pitch for a long-awaited home opener.
The atmosphere at a renovated Providence Park should be electric Saturday night when the Timbers host league leaders Los Angeles FC.Portland (4-6-2) proved to be the ultimate road warriors while playing an MLS-record 12 straight contests away from home to open the season while Providence Park underwent an upgrade that cost a reported $85 million. Though the Timbers are still below the playoff line in the Western Conference, they should have plenty of momentum while entering their home opener on a 4-1-1 stretch that followed an 0-5-1 beginning.
"You know it's difficult," Portland coach Giovanni Savarese told the MLS official website. "But until you leave, you don't understand exactly how difficult. And it's been tough. For us to still be in a position on the table fighting to get in the playoffs with all the games away, it's very good."
The Timbers are 35-8-11 over the past three seasons at Providence Park, traditionally one of the toughest places for opponents to play in MLS. With a new feel and more excitement, it could be even tougher - especially this weekend for an LAFC squad that beat Portland 4-1 on March 10.
"It's exciting for sure," Savarese said. "We've been waiting a long time for this. To be able to playing in front of our fans, we're excited about that. It's going to be amazing."
Portland will look to build on an impressive 3-1 win at Philadelphia from last Saturday. Brian Fernandez scored twice over a five-minute stretch of the first half and Diego Valeri scored his third of the season late as the Timbers ended the Union's six-game unbeaten stretch.
Fernandez has been a beast since joining Portland earlier this month as a Designated Player, posting three goals on five shots in the two games he's played with the club.
He will also give LAFC (10-1-4) something it did not have to worry about during the March meeting between these two sides. Though Jeremy Ebobisse equalized in the 29th minute for Portland, LAFC scored three times in the second half with Carlos Vela recording a goal and two assists for the contest.
Vela, who had one of each as LAFC extended its unbeaten run to seven games with a 4-2 victory over Montreal on May 24, leads MLS with 15 goals. However, he and LAFC understand this matchup with the Timbers could be much different and more challenging.
"I think anyone that's ever been to Portland knows the atmosphere is fantastic, and if you take into account that it's their home opener after 12 games, you can multiple by 10 or 20 and know we're going into a tough place," coach Bob Bradley told LAFC's official website. "But, I think all players love going there, and love the idea that you're going to try and really be up to that challenge."
Updated May 30, 2019