As the battle for the West heats up, we get the 7th and 8th place teams, fighting for a playoff berth, squaring off against each other. Right now Nashville is in 7th and in the playoffs. Portland sits 8th and is on the outside looking in.
Portland finds themselves at a major disadvantage tonight after a quality road draw vs Minnesota. In that match Portland had two key players accumulate enough yellow cards to be suspended. Diego Chara and Dairon Asprilla will both miss tonight's match. Yimmi Chara is currently sitting on four yellows and will be suspended the following match if/when he acquires his 5th. Asprilla is a quality service man and puts a lot of nice crosses into the box. Diego Chara has an outstanding motor and is an impact player defensively in the midfield. Both players will be sorely missed by Portland. Blanco, Mora, and Niezgoda will have to continue to possess the ball in the offensive end and push hard for goals to overcome this deficit. Luckily Blanco is coming off a three goal performance and should have all the confidence in the world.
Nashville gets two players back from yellow card suspension after missing the last match. They should be as close to full strength tonight as a team can get this late in the season. Nashville has a difficult challenge traveling to Portland. Portland are 5-4-2 in their building this year. If Nashville wants to cement themselves into the playoff conversation, they should start by picking up a minimum of one point tonight. In order to get a point, top goal scorer Hany Mukhtar is going to need to add to his 12 goals on the year. Muktar hasn’t scored in Nashville’s last two matches. That is a surprise, because prior to this two match streak without netting a goal, he had scored seven goals in six matches. I'll be looking for him to net a goal tonight.
A little key betting side note. As we know, the assist market in the MLS is extremely player friendly. This is because official MLS scoring allows for the “hockey” assist. The “hockey” assist is when an assist is credited to two separate players who touched the ball leading to a goal. Tonight's match has the potential to be very profitable on the assist market. Yimmy Chara is tied for 4th in the MLS with 8 assists. Blanco and Moreno for Portland both have 7 assists. Mukhtar has 6 assists for Nashville, Leal has 5, and Saponge has 4. Lots of potential on the field tonight.
In the end, I think the missing players for Portland will cost them the win. I like Nashville on the double chance, but that number is a little juiced for my taste. I think there will be plenty of goals in this game. This is midweek, MLS after dark, in Portland after all. If you have been watching this year, you know that is typically a perfect storm for a goal fest.