The Portland Timbers look to stretch their unbeaten streak to five matches when they host Minnesota United on Saturday night.
Portland is 2-0-2 during the span, including Wednesday’s scoreless road tie against Real Salt Lake.
The Timbers (4-5-4, 16 points) have been sparked by Evander, a Brazilian midfielder who is in his first season with the squad. He has scored a team-best four goals, including three over the past four matches.
The 24-year-old spent the previous five seasons with FC Midtjylland in Denmark.
“Every game he is getting better,” Portland coach Giovanni Savarese said. “We’ve seen he is getting more comfortable and he’s moving better. He’s looking for the ball and wants to be that person dictating the ball.”
Against Salt Lake, Aljaz Ivacic (four saves) recorded his first shutout of the season and seventh of his career.
Minnesota United (4-5-3, 15 points) halted a six-match winless stretch (0-5-1) by producing a 1-0 home win over the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday. South African forward Bongokuhle Hlongwane scored the lone goal.
The Loons are hoping the breakthrough will lead to a string of wins that jumpstarts the season.
“We all know the way this league works,” Minnesota goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair (four saves) said after his fourth clean sheet of the season. “If you win three or four games in a row, all of a sudden you’re back at the top of the table or close to it.
“I think it’s just believing in ourselves. We’ve gone through these tough moments in the past. We’ve had good summers where we’ve probably been one of the best teams. We know we have that belief in ourselves.”
Loons coach Adrian Heath recalls the club’s strong 3-0-2 start to the season, and feels that’s more indicative of the team’s talent.
“I’ve said to them I know we’re a good team,” Heath said. “Four or five weeks ago, we hadn’t been beaten in the first five games. Three of them were on the road. So we haven’t suddenly gone from being a really difficult team to beat to an easy team to play against. We’re not an easy team to play against.”
Minnesota is hoping star midfielder Emanuel Reynoso will make his season debut soon. He was recently cleared by the league to return after being suspended in the preseason for not reporting to the team’s training camp.
Portland went 1-0-1 against the Loons last season.
–Field Level Media
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