The Portland Timbers could hand Juan Mosquera his Major League Soccer debut Saturday against Minnesota United, and the Colombian defender is determined to help his new team end the season strongly.
The Timbers are occupying the Western Conference’s final playoff spot ahead of their meeting with the Loons, who sit just two points ahead of them as the postseason approaches. And Mosquera is determined to make an impact.
“Things worked out well to join this team and I am very happy. It’s a big challenge for me at my young age,” he said. “The group has been extremely welcoming and we’re just training to be in good shape for the matches that are left. Those are very important to me.”
“As a person, he’s a tremendous human being and a great match for our locker room,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese added. “As a player, he’s still learning some of the things we’re looking for. His attributes, already you can see his speed and his calmness on the ball.”
Minnesota, meanwhile, suffered a 3-0 defeat against FC Dallas last time out, having succumbed to the same scoreline at Real Salt Lake two days earlier.
Head coach Adrian Heath has called for the Loons to improve their defending to end their slump.
“I don’t think we played well enough to take anything from the game in Salt Lake, where we pretty much were second best for most of the game,” Heath recalled. “They’ve got to defend better, individually and collectively. You’ve got to be a bit more determined to stop the guy who is next to you.”
Heath is also contending with an injury scare concerning star forward Emanuel Reynoso, and has declared he will check on the Argentine’s fitness “day-to-day” ahead of the match.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Portland Timbers – Sebastian Blanco
Blanco has scored twice in each of his last two games against Minnesota United, the only Timbers player to do so against a single foe and the only player to do so against Minnesota. The last player to score multiple goals in three straight matches against a single opponent was David Villa for New York City vs. Toronto in 2015-16, can Blanco match the Spaniard’s feat?
Minnesota United – Emanuel Reynoso
Reynoso has been fouled in the final third of the field 22 times this season, with Atlanta United’s Marcelino Moreno the only player with more fouls earned in that area of the field (27). Additionally, Reynoso has won three penalty kicks this season, tied with three other players for most in MLS, meaning the hosts will have to be wary if he shakes off an injury concern.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– The Timbers and Minnesota United played out a 4-4 draw in St. Paul on July 30, a match that was the first in league history to see both teams score at least four goals and receive at least four yellow cards. Blanco scored the opening goal after 13 seconds, the fourth-fastest goal in MLS history.
– The Timbers have won three consecutive games for the first time since last season’s run to the MLS Cup Final.
– Including its 2-1 win over Atlanta United on Sunday, Portland has won nine of their last 10 matches in the month of September (D1).
– Minnesota has suffered consecutive 3-0 defeats after losing just once in its previous 11 league matches (W8 D2).
– The Loons have lost consecutive games by at least three goals for the first time since their first two MLS matches in March 2017 (1-5 at Portland, 1-6 vs. Atlanta).