MLS

​Minnesota United FC v Portland Timbers: 'Proud' Neville hoping to build momentum

By Sports Desk May 18, 2024

Phil Neville is hoping Portland Timbers can build some momentum with back-to-back victories when they take on Minnesota United FC at Allianz Field on Saturday.

The Timbers recovered from two goals down at half-time to beat San Jose Earthquakes 4-2 in their most recent match, snapping a three-game losing run and a nine-match wait for three points.

Portland are now back up to 11th in the Western Conference, but Neville accepts there is plenty to do if his side are to challenge for a play-off spot.

"The spirit in that second half [against San Jose] was bigger than anything I've seen in football, and I've seen an awful lot in football," Neville said. 

"Those supporters willed the team, willed the ball into the back of the net and that’s what makes me proud to be the manager of this football club. We've got a hell of a lot of work to do. It's a big job and one we'll succeed in.”

Minnesota played out a 2-2 draw with LA Galaxy in their most recent match, as they let slip a half-time lead to trail 2-1 before hitting back late on.

The Loons have now won three and drawn one of their past four games and are second in the West after an impressive start to life under head coach Eric Ramsay.

The Welshman was particularly pleased with his side's first-half performance against Galaxy and is hoping for a full-90 performance when Portland visit.

"I think that's the most complete performance that we've had since I've been here," he told reporters. 

"We're really frustrated overall because it's a game you felt we had complete control of at half-time. I just felt we've taken our foot off their neck in the second half."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Minnesota United - Bongokuhle Hlongwane

Hlongwane opened the scoring for Minnesota in the four-goal draw with Galaxy and enjoys playing against next opponents Portland.

Indeed, the South Africa international has scored in his first three MLS matches against the Timers - the only player in MLS history to do so.

Portland Timbers - Maxime Crepeau

The Timbers may have defeated San Jose in midweek, but they conceded multiple goals for a ninth straight game, equalling the longest streak in a single season in MLS history.

While it is down to the whole defensive unit to keep the opposition out, goalkeeper Crepeau's save percentage of 62 is the second lowest in MLS this season, behind only St. Louis City SC's Roman Burki (61.9 per cent) 

MATCH PREDICTION: MINNESOTA UNITED WIN

Minnesota have won eight of their 13 regular-season meetings with the Timbers, averaging exactly two points per match in those games - the best of any Western Conference team against Portland since United joined MLS in 2017.

The Loons have lost only two of their opening 11 matches this season - never previously have they lost fewer than four games at this stage - and have scored multiple goals in each of their past four outings. 

Portland showed great spirit in fighting back against San Jose - it was the second latest a team has come from two goals down in an MLS match to win by multiple goals - but that is only one of three wins in 13 MLS games this term.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Minnesota United - 48.9%
Draw - 26.6%
Portland Timbers - 24.5%

Related items

  • New England Revolution v Vancouver Whitecaps: 'Evolving' Revs are ready for fight, says Porter New England Revolution v Vancouver Whitecaps: 'Evolving' Revs are ready for fight, says Porter

    Caleb Porter praised his "evolving" New England Revolution side as they prepare to face Vancouver Whitecaps on the back of consecutive wins.

    In their opening 13 games, New England only had two wins on the board in the Eastern Conference, sitting bottom with seven points.

    Though they still prop up the standings, they are now on 13 points after wins over Nashville SC and New York Red Bulls, with Porter hopeful they can keep building on this momentum.

    "The biggest key is our mentality has been stronger," Porter said, as quoted in The Blazing Musket substack.

    "We're finding ways to get results. That evolution, I'm very pleased with, so I think, for me, it's unquestionable, we're evolving in every aspect."

    "We know we're in a hole, there's no doubt about it. We have to continue to fight our way out, and it's going to take every game, and it's going to take until the end of the season."

    Vancouver, meanwhile, are fifth in the Western Conference after back-to-back victories of their own against Sporting Kansas City and Colorado Rapids.

    After their mid-season break, Vanni Sartini is aiming to improve on some of the weaknesses shown in the first half of the campaign.

    "I think we did okay [in the first half]," he said. "We're doing well. I think that we were doing very well defensively - I'd say the best in my years as head coach here.

    "I think we can do a little more in the final third. We are playing well, but we need to be better at finishing the action more. If we can do that, we can aspire to go to the top four positions."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    New England Revolution – Carles Gil

    Gil assisted Emmanuel Boateng on the lone goal of the match in New England's win Saturday. The Spaniard has been involved in seven (five goals, two assists) of the Revs’ 12 goals this season.

    Vancouver Whitecaps – Ryan Gauld

    Gauld assisted both of Vancouver's goals in their win over Colorado on June 1, taking him to 31 assists to go along with 30 goals in regular-season play.

    The Scotsman is one of three players (Luciano Acosta, Hany Mukhtar) with at least 30 goals and 30 assists since he joined the MLS in August 2021.

    MATCH PREDICTION: DRAW

    The Revolution have lost only two of their 11 all-time meetings with Vancouver (W5 D4), including winning four of the six meetings at Gillette Stadium (D1 L1).

    New England have also won back-to-back matches for the first time since July last year after winning just two of their first 13 league matches this season. All four of New England's wins this year have been by a one-goal margin.

    Meanwhile, the Whitecaps have won back-to-back matches, recording 2-1 wins against Sporting Kansas City and Colorado Rapids. This is Vancouver's sixth set of consecutive wins since the start of last season, though they have not won three league matches in a row since September-October 2022.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    New England Revolution – 38.6%

    Draw – 26.5%

    Vancouver Whitecaps – 34.9%

  • Shaqiri insists Euro 2024 is not a vacation as fitness doubts dismissed Shaqiri insists Euro 2024 is not a vacation as fitness doubts dismissed

    Xherdan Shaqiri is ready to take centre stage for Switzerland once again as he dismissed doubts about his match fitness ahead of Euro 2024. 

    Shaqiri, who will feature in his seventh major tournament in Germany, will hope to continue his glistening career with his nation as they kickstart their Group A campaign against Hungary on Saturday. 

    The 32-year-old has scored or assisted 46 percent of Switzerland’s goals at major tournaments over the last 10 years, becoming only the fifth player to reach 100 caps for his country two years ago. 

    Despite his experience, coach Murat Yakin has questioned Shaqiri's ability to play back-to-back games in the competition, with the forward insisting he has not travelled to Germany to make up the numbers. 

    "It's almost embarrassing to have to answer this question. Every player who comes into the national team can and wants to play -- over the full distance," Shaqiri said. 

    "No one should only show up for work half the time. I don't see any problems with that. Did (Yakin) really say that?

    "I gave the answer: I'm here with the national team because I want to help the team and play as much as possible. I didn't travel to the European Championships to take a vacation."

    Shaqiri scored three times during qualifying as the Swiss finished five points behind group winners Romania, drawing five of their 10 fixtures in a group that included Israel, Kosovo and Belarus. 

    But Switzerland have proved in recent tournaments they have the ability to compete against the top sides, most notably beating France on penalties at Euro 2020. 

    The former Liverpool midfielder believes the group of players have the quality to succeed in Germany, and is hopeful his national team can lift an international honour in the years to come. 

    "It's my seventh finals, and each one has its story," Shaqiri said. "I love the tension before tournaments, it doesn't exist anywhere else.

    "Since I joined the national team, we have continually improved. The respect of the opponents and the public for us has grown, as has the quality in the national team. Many players have important roles at big clubs.

    "To talk about the best national team of all time, we don't have the big exploit -- three years ago we were very close to the semi-finals. The next generation is in the starting blocks and I hope that at some point Switzerland can lift a trophy."

  • Leon Bailey's agent, JFF, at odds over why player was selected for Copa America campaign Leon Bailey's agent, JFF, at odds over why player was selected for Copa America campaign

    The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has found itself embroiled in yet another controversy following the announcement of the Reggae Boyz squad for the upcoming Copa America competition. The squad, revealed on Wednesday, included Aston Villa winger Leon Bailey, who quickly took to social media to label the inclusion as "misleading information." This development has sparked confusion and debate among fans and stakeholders alike.

    JFF President Michael Ricketts, in an interview with Sportsmax.TV early Thursday, provided insight into the selection process and the circumstances surrounding Bailey's inclusion. The president explained that no player is selected for national duty until there is dialogue with the player’s club or representatives.

    According to Ricketts, the situation stemmed from complex interactions between the JFF, Bailey, and his father and agent, Craig Butler. Butler, he said, had attempted to negotiate Bailey's availability for the national team by seeking the selection of players from his Phoenix Academy for both the national senior team and the national U20 team.

    "We don’t speak with the players; we speak with the player's club or the player's agent. In this case, (Craig) Butler, got in contact with the General Secretary Dennis Chung,” Ricketts said.  “He wanted other players [from Phoenix Academy] in the U20 squad and he wants players in the senior team in exchange for Bailey. The General Secretary told him no, I can’t deal with that."

    The president explained that the general secretary does not play a role in team selection, that is the responsibility of the coaching staff.

    Ricketts noted that following his conversation with Chung, Butler then placed a call to Coach Heimir Hallgrimsson and during their conversation assured him that Bailey would not be available for Jamaica’s game against Mexico but would be available for the second and third group-stage games of the Copa America. Consequently, the coach decided to include Bailey in the squad based on this assurance.

    Ricketts said he is unaware of any other matters that arose between Butler and the Reggae Boyz head coach.

    "Having told the coach that Bailey would be available for the second and third games, the coach named Bailey as part of the squad," Ricketts stated.

    Bailey, who has been suspended since the November international break for breaking curfew, had not featured in Jamaica's recent matches, including the 2026 World Cup qualifiers against the Dominican Republic and Dominica earlier this month. Following his suspension, Bailey announced on a podcast that he was taking a break from international football.

    On social media Wednesday, Butler reiterated Bailey’s stance, stating that posts suggesting Bailey’s willingness to participate in the Copa America were misleading. "Posts made on social media that are surfacing at this time is a misrepresentation of his position," Butler wrote. "We wish the Reggae Boyz well in the Copa America competition and he, along with his management team, will continue to support the Jamaica National Team at all levels … change must come…Respect and One Love for all."

    The squad was announced at Tracks and Records in Kingston on Wednesday evening when Coach Hallgrimsson told media that discussions between Butler and the JFF had gone well, indicating that several issues of concern were addressed, which presumably led him to believe that the player was available for selection.

    “So the talk was between his (Bailey’s) agent and the JFF, so I would like to give a lot of credit to Craig and Mr Chung so they sorted out whatever was the issue between him and the JFF so after that I think he has always wanted to represent Jamaica,” the head coach said.

    “I don’t want to talk too much about what went on at a meeting I wasn’t attending but I’m just grateful  that this happened and this was resolved. We have been talking about some of the issues he was talking about so we shared some of the same thoughts in so many matters and hopefully it will just help us grow, continue to improve to become more professional…”

    However, in an interview on CVM Television Thursday morning, hours after Bailey’s social media post, Butler explained that he met with the JFF and he explained his concerns and they long-term reparations of the damage (of the relationship between the player and governing body.

    He said they did not commit to any player whether Bailey of (Dujuan) Whisper Richards rejoining the national team because “we felt that we should take a stand (against the JFF’s lack of professionalism) but more importantly that Leon is taking a break.

    “Leon hasn’t had a break since 2016 and he is taking a break to spend time with family. We explained to them that he is not ready but we will speak to him and they (JFF) are not to make any attempts to include him in the squad until I got confirmation or a communication from Leon, who is at Disney World with his family.”

    Jamaica is set to open its Copa America campaign against Mexico on June 22, followed by matches against Ecuador on June 26 and Venezuela on June 30.

    President Ricketts emphasized the importance of moving forward regardless of the situation. "The show must go on," he declared, underlining the need for the team to remain focused amid the ongoing controversy.

    Several calls made to JFF General Secretary went unanswered.

     

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.