The Columbus Crew have enough to worry about with their attack, but they now face the added pressure of having to replace the majority of their back line over the course of the next two matches as the World Cup exodus begins.
The struggling Crew will try to overcome a trio of negative streaks Saturday night as the Portland Timbers attempt to continue an impressive home streak while climbing from an early season hole in the Western Conference.
Columbus (3-4-3) is winless in its last seven with three straight losses and 321 minutes without a goal.
It now gets to concern itself with the departures of U.S. defender Michael Parkhurst and Costa Rica defender Waylon Francis, who have been released on World Cup leave to join their national teams. Fellow Costa Rica defender Giancarlo Gonzalez will remain with the Crew through the weekend.
"(Tyson Wahl), Eric Gehrig, these guys are hanging in there," coach Gregg Berhalter told the team’s official website of his replacement plans. "It’s not easy; they haven’t gotten any chance to play because of our center back combination. You tell them, ‘Listen, your time will come, be patient.’ Now’s the time."
It’s also the time for a goal, as the club went scoreless in a third straight game in last Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Vancouver. The Crew last went four matches without a goal May 17-June 7, 2008.
After scoring seven times in three wins to start the season, they’ve managed three goals in the following seven. Top scorer Federico Higuain scored his four goals in the first five games.
The only positive streak the Crew have going concerns the Timbers. Columbus is 2-1-1 against Portland and has kept three straight clean sheets in the series, including a 1-0 home win July 7. Higuain assisted on Bernardo Anor’s fourth-minute goal.
The Timbers (1-3-6) have yet to lose in six home games and are unbeaten in 21 regular-season home matches since April 6, 2013. But they haven’t won as much as they’d like because of some questionable marking in their own penalty area. Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Los Angeles was their fifth home tie, and it was very nearly a loss.
Portland conceded a stoppage-time goal on a long throw-in to fall behind before Diego Valeri salvaged a point with an equalizer in the closing moments. The Timbers are one of three teams to concede at least five goals on crosses, trailing the six allowed by Chicago and FC Dallas.
"Sounding like a broken record after games because most of the goals we’ve given up are simple crosses and guys running through to head the ball in, and at this level it’s unacceptable to give up those types of goals," coach Caleb Porter told the club’s official website.
The Timbers might have set themselves up to score more of those types of goals Tuesday with the addition of 6-foot-4 forward Fanendo Adi on loan from Denmark club FC Copenhagen.
"His air play and ability to hold the ball as more of a target option will complement the qualities of our other players while providing a different dimension to our attack," Porter said.
Portland has gathered points in three straight games after an 0-3-4 start. To keep that going, they’ll need to overcome injuries to midfielder Diego Chara and defender Michael Harrington. Chara is out with a broken hand suffered against the Galaxy while Harrington sprained his ankle.