Timbers at Vancouver
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. today at BC Place, Vancouver, B.C.
TV: KPDX, channel 13.
Radio: 970 AM.
Timbers (7-8-10, 31 points): Yet another chance for the Timbers to climb above the fifth-place playoff cutoff line. A win would inch Portland ahead of Vancouver, which currently sits fifth in the Western Conference. With the top four teams at least nine points in front of fifth place, this match and a Sept. 20 match between the rivals in Portland could decide the playoff fate for both clubs.
Portland will start yet another group of defenders, as center back Norberto Paparatto is suspended. Pa Modou Kah could start alongside Liam Ridgewell. The Timbers will try to defend the Whitecaps more effectively than they did in a 4-3 loss to Vancouver in Portland earlier this season. Coach Caleb Porter said his team gave too much space to a dangerous attacking team in that match.
Champions League update: CD Olimpia of Honduras beat visiting Alpha United of Guyana 6-0 on Thursday to move atop Group 5 of the CONCACAF Champions League. Olimpia is 2-0, the Timbers 1-0 and Alpha United 0-3. Olimpia visits Portland on Sept. 16.
Whitecaps (7-5-12, 33 points): Last week’s loss at Los Angeles halted a six-game unbeaten run for Vancouver. But the Whitecaps have struggled to score recently, getting shut out in three of their last four matches. Timbers coach Porter called that surprising because he believes the Whitecaps have some of the most talented individual attackers in the league. That attack is led by Chilean midfielder Pedro Morales (7 goals, 9 assists). “He’s the difference maker,” Porter said. “He makes them go. If he gets going and he’s (facing the defense), he can play final balls to guys like (Darren) Mattocks (6 goals, 3 assists).”
The acquisition last week of former Seattle midfielder Mauro Rosales gives the Whitecaps a veteran player who can distribute the ball to speedy forwards Mattocks, Erik Hurtado or Kekuta Manneh.
Midfielder Gershon Koffie (ankle) is out, but his usual partner in the middle of the field, Matias Laba, returns from a suspension. Like Portland, Vancouver will be without a suspended center back (Honduran Johnny Leveron).