Atlanta United’s injury crisis last season has been well-documented. After what happened in 2022, fans (and media) will be hoping nothing of that sort ever happens to this club again.
Then there’s the Portland Timbers, who are resembling somewhat of a MASH unit not even a month into the 2023 season. Just take a look at their availability report from Wednesday:
Timbers availability report vs. Atlanta.— Ryan Clarke (@RyanTClarke) March 16, 2023
Evander is OUT due to a hip injury. Portland will also be without Mora, Blanco, Ayala, Asprilla, Ikoba, Y. Chará and Cristhian Paredes. #RCTID pic.twitter.com/dmyoVSKTZR
These aren’t exactly minor figures on the Portland roster, either. Felipe Mora, an 11-goal scorer in 2020, played just 7 matches last year and has yet to see the field in 2023. Sebastian Blanco also hasn’t played a minute this season, a surgically-repaired knee making it difficult at times to get up the stairs without assistance, he told The Oregonian’s Ryan Clarke in January. David Ayala made 21 appearances and 8 starts last year but underwent knee surgery in February, as did Dairon Asprilla (10g/2a in 2022). Meanwhile, Tega Akoba, a Homegrown Player and one-time UNC Tar Heel, is out with a groin injury.
More recently, Yimmi Chará went down with a hamstring injury in the season opener against Sporting Kansas City, while Cristhian Paredes had to exit inside of a quarter-hour on Saturday against St. Louis CITY due to his own hamstring — only to see Evander, his injury replacement and the club’s record signing (approx. $10 million), exit in the 69th minute and eventually be ruled out for Atlanta due to a hip injury.
So that’s the situation the Timbers are facing as they make the trip to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where they haven’t played since MLS Cup 2018. With a weakened lineup coupled with a cross-country flight, it’s certainly not unfair to think that Gio Savarese’s tactical approach will be to simply get out of town with a point and no further injuries. That said, Atlanta will need to avoid getting lulled into how Portland will want to approach the match and force the visitors to adapt to its style of play — an early goal will set the proper tone. Hopefully, Saturday’s win at Charlotte FC was what the team needed to develop a ruthlessness in the attack that they didn’t have for a good chunk of 2022 and for the first 2 matches of 2023, leading them to make it 10 points through 4 matches to extend their best-ever start to the season.