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Four questions with Sam Svilar of Stumptown Footy



Photo by Carl Gulbish
Through the international break, Major League Soccer is continuing to power through. The Philadelphia Union, missing several players due to duties for their homelands, are set to take on the Portland Timbers late Saturday night.
To learn more about the Union’s next opponent, we reached out to Sam Svilar and our friends out at Stumptown Footy and got the inside scoop on the Timbers.
Philadelphia Soccer Now: Portland’s had a strong start to the season, asserting itself as a Western Conference contender. What’s gone right for the Timbers?
Sam Svilar: I don’t think even the most optimistic Timbers fan saw seven points from four games coming at the start of the year. It’s even more incredulous when you realize they were one late collapse against DC and one defensive gaff against Houston away from a perfect start to the year. Still, the strong start cannot be denied. The big reason for Portland’s improved spring form has primarily been their organization. This team looks significantly more disciplined and organized than years passed, and there are clear ideas and patterns of play offensively. The result of that is that the players that need to break out for Portland to have a strong start – Santiago Moreno, Antony, Evander – for the most part have. Having an improved defense has helped too – Maxime Crepeau and Kamal Miller have been as good as advertised.
PSN: Philadelphia will have a few absences for international duty, but Portland will also be missing a few players. What can you say about those missing the game and their replacements?
SS: The aforementioned Kamal Miller and Maxime Crepeau are the two biggest absences this week. They’ve both been top-notch in defense, with Crepeau in particular almost single-handedly saving Portland points. Their absences will be felt, but in their stead, the Timbers have several high-level replacements. James Pantemis will start in goal, just as he did in Portland’s first game. And if that opener was any indication, Portland will be in good shape: Pantemis made multiple fine stops in his one appearance so far, so Timbers fans have confidence in the backup. In lieu of K. Miller, veteran Dario Zuparic will start in central defense. He’s been solid in the past, and looked good last week, so Portland is overall looking very good in handling their international absences.
PSN: The Timbers are tied for third-most in goals scored so far this season. What’s defining that high-powered attack?
SS: A big reason has been scoring so many goals is that they’re coming from so many different places. Antony, Evander, Moreno, Dairon Asprilla, and Eryk Williamson have all chipped in goals this year, and that’s indicative of Portland’s newfound offensive scheme. Phil Neville has instilled a dynamic possession-focused attacking scheme that values moving the ball quickly inside and out, attacking up the wings, and looking for high-percentage crosses and cutbacks in the box. Time and time again Portland has been able to move defenders out of position and make space for their attackers, and it’s paid dividends.
Now, that’s only if they can finish those chances. We saw last week what happens when the Timbers fail to capitalize on any of their chances (they get shut out and lose), and how finishing variance may be their doom. There is no true killer on this roster, and it’s been apparent for over a year that this team is badly in need of a goal scorer. Good thing then that Portland just signed Jonathan Rodriguez as a DP, as he fits that bill nicely.
PSN: Other than those just mentioned, will Portland have any notable absences? What are your score and lineup predictions?
SS: Claudio Bravo is still out for the Timbers, but Felipe Mora (who suffered an injury in preseason), should be available for selection. He likely won’t start, but having that offensive firepower on the bench will be a big lift. Rodriguez may or may not be available depending on his paperwork, so whether he makes his debut this weekend is up in the air.
As for a starting XI, here’s my best guess (4-2-3-1): James Pantemis; Juan Mosqeura, Zac McGraw, Dario Zuparic, Eric Miller; Diego Chara, Eryk Williamson; Santiago Moreno, Evander, Antony; Dairon Asprilla.
And as for a final score prediction, I say 2-1 to the Timbers. The Union are always a tough out, so I expect it to be competitive. But Philadelphia is missing too many pieces, and so I’m riding with the home side.

Joe is a junior at Penn State studying journalism and sports studies, among other things. He's covered the Union since 2017 and has written for Brotherly Game / Philadelphia Soccer Now since 2019. He seeks to answer life's greatest questions, such as, "How did I get here?" and "Where is that large automobile?" You can find Joe on Twitter (iamjoelister) or via email (

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