I Spoke with Zachary Kay ahead of today’s clash about all things #PORvMIN - hear what he had to say about his side and what Wednesday could look like as well.
EPL: Brian Fernandez. What on earth is going on with him? He’s been absolutely incredible to watch since joining the Timbers this past May, with 8 goals in 10 matches. How has he influenced the Timber’s late run of form? What does he bring in a DP Striker role?
STF: Fernandez has absolutely been a revelation for the Timbers. When he was signed, we all knew about his impressive goalscoring form in Mexico, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted the pace at which he’s kept it up in MLS. More than just his goalscoring ability, though, the way he plays and the runs he makes, and how much he forces defenders to pay attention to him has given Diego Valeri more space to operate in. In the beginning of the season, teams were able to just surround Valeri whenever he got the ball, and his performances struggled for it. With Fernandez around to take some of that pressure off of him, the Timbers attack as a whole is just that much more dangerous.
EPL: Allianz Field isn’t an easy place to win a match, and for the Timbers, road matches have been tough this year. Some say it’s an unfair schedule, others say it was just a bad run of form. You started the season with 11 straight road matches, going 3-6-2. What do you need to do to take three points not only Sunday, but Wednesday as well?
STF: It’s true that the Timbers have had some road struggles this year, but in recent weeks the story has been quite the opposite. In July, the Timbers went away to NYCFC, LAFC, and the Seattle Sounders and handed all of those teams their first home losses of the year. With the extended road trip and those positive results, the team has really grown into a ‘road warriors’ mentality, which I’m sure they’ll bring into these two matches this week.
As for what the team will need to do to get results in Minnesota, I think it heavily depends on the way the Loons approach the match. The Timbers have shown recently that they can beat anyone trying to play an attacking, open style against them. They have, however, struggled with teams that have sat deep and bunkered for a draw. If MNU try to attack, then all PTFC will have to do is play their regular game. But if they’re faced with a deep-sitting home side, they’ll need to prove they’ve figured out how to break down that kind of defensive approach.
EPL: The U.S. Open Cup semi final is this coming Wednesday, August 7. You face the Loons 3 days after Sunday’s matchup. What do you expect to change between both games? Is Savarese going to roll out the best XI in both matches? Which is prioritized by the team do you think?
STF: t’s tough to say exactly how Gio is going to rotate the squad, especially with how good the Timbers depth has looked lately. That said, at this point it seems like the USOC Semifinal is the clear priority. The Timbers have never made it to an open cup final and now that they’re above the red line with an extended home stretch coming up in the league, it seems safe to put out a less-than-full-strength lineup on Sunday. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some combination of Valeri, Blanco, Mabiala, and maybe Fernandez play less than 90 minutes today.