Every year, there are certain things you always look forward to on the sporting calendar, and MLS is no exception. The Cascadia Cup is a fan-created, league-supported competition between Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver to determine the best team in the region for the season, and last year, that Cup was won by Vancouver in the worst possible way.
All Portland had to do was not lose by more than two goals in the last game of the season, and they would have won the Cup, but instead, they imploded, losing 4-1 and surrendering it in the evenest Cup campaign of the MLS era (Vancouver claimed it on goal difference).
Saturday, a retooled Portland team starts its campaign to reclaim the Cascadia Cup, and also to get their season back on track after last weekend's loss to Sporting Kansas City.
They'll have to do so, however, without the services of Fanendo Adi, who was suspended for this elbow to the head of Ike Opara. Without Adi, it will be likely to see Darren Mattocks up top, starting against his old team, and Dairon Asprilla as the first attacking sub off the bench.
Without their joint top scorer, of course, Portland are a very different team. They have enough firepower to withstand Adi's absence for a game, but it will change the way they move the ball and the way they attack in the final third; expect Diego Valeri to pick up more of that workload, and hopefully involve Mattocks a lot more via quick, short passes as Mattocks runs through and into spaces a lot more effectively than Adi, who plays as a more traditional target man, generally does.
Still no word on the status of Liam Ridgewell, which means that Lawrence Olum likely gets another start. Vytas is healthy again, and with Marco Farfan having a bit of an off game last weekend, might get the start as Caleb Porter will try to keep Farfan's spirits up despite this bump in the 18-year-old's development. Farfan was never meant to be an everyday starter this year, and I think throwing him into the deep end worked reasonably well, but if he can season a bit more in T2 he'll be a lot stronger for it next season, so I'm OK with him taking a secondary role tomorrow.
Take off, eh
Vancouver comes to town on the back of a win in their first Cascadia match, which was a dream result for Timbers fans - not just a win over the Sounders, but a win in which ex-Sounder, all time SSFC leading scorer, and Sounder legend Fredy Montero scored both Whitecaps goals. That is Banter Heaven.
Vancouver always plays Portland tough, Kendall Waston gives the Timbers fits, and games between these two teams recently have been very chippy affairs. Vancouver is off to a slow-ish start, but that doesn't mean anything in these kinds of matchups because they'll always want to come down here and steal three points.
Both Brek Shea and Erik Hurtado are injured for this game - Shea with a left knee sprain, and Hurtado with a left foot contusion - so the 'Caps will have their work cut out for them if they want to slow down the Timbers on Saturday. They have only one once in their last 11 away games, which bodes well for a Timbers team who are always strong at Providence Park.