Who will be the Portland Timbers’ starting forward?

Portland Timbers forward Fanendo Adi has developed into one of the most dangerous strikers in Major League Soccer since joining the league in 2014. He scored 16 goals in back-to-back seasons from 2015-16 and netted another 10 last year, despite missing the end of the season due to injury.

But he wasn’t in the starting lineup when the Timbers took the field against the New York Red Bulls Saturday.

Instead, Timbers new head coach Giovanni Savarese made the decision to start Samuel Armenteros over Adi.

“Everybody is getting an opportunity to play and that’s important,” Savarese said. “Everybody has to step on the field and show a little bit of what they’re capable of bringing.”

Adi started in Portland’s season opener against the LA Galaxy on March 4. While he earned an assist in the match, he had an overall quiet outing as he only managed two shots in the game as the Timbers fell 2-1.

After the loss at LA, Savarese made the decision to start Armenteros over Adi on the road against the Red Bulls Saturday.
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Armenteros had a tremendous preseason for the Timbers where he scored four goals and two assists in just 120 minutes, but the Swedish striker wasn’t nearly as dominant against New York. Armenteros managed just three shots and failed to score in a 1v1 situation with the keeper.

Savarese ultimately subbed out Armenteros in the 59th minute, but instead of putting Adi into the game, he made the shocking decision to put in Victor Arboleda in his place of Armenteros. Adi didn’t enter the match until the 73rd minute. The Timbers were ultimately shut out for the first time in 22 regular season games as they posted an embarrassing 4-0 loss to the Red Bulls.

“In that side (of the field), we had a lot of space and we felt that we needed a little more speed and that’s what Victor is able to give us,” said Savarese of his decision to put in Arboleda for Armenteros in the match.

After back-to-back losses, Savarese must now reevaluate his lineup, formation and style of play as he aims to find a way to get more out of his club moving forward.

A big part of that decision will be determining which forward will be able to contribute the most in the starting lineup when the Timbers face FC Dallas in their next match on March 24.

While Savarese could make a significant change to his formation and employ a 4-4-2 to get both Adi and Armenteros on the field, he will have to chose between the two strikers if he continues to use a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Which striker do you think should start moving forward? Vote in our poll and let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

It’s too early to press the panic button, but the Portland Timbers need to find the answers to these 10 questions if they want to have a successful season.

Can this team effectively employ Giovanni Savarese’s style of play?

Ten of Portland’s 11 starters in New York Saturday were with the Timbers last season, but you wouldn’t have known that from the performance. The Timbers looked disjointed and lost at times as they fell 4-0 to a second-choice Red Bulls team. While it was always going to take time for the club to adjust to a new coach and style of play, the Timbers seem to be having a lot more problems with the change than expected. Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese has mainly employed a 4-2-3-1 formation that isn’t all that different than the one used by former Timbers coach Caleb Porter. But Savarese has also asked his team to play a higher line and commit to a high press. After a season opening 2-1 loss in LA and a demoralizing defeat at New York, it is time for Savarese to take a hard look at his formation, lineup and style of play to determine whether a different system or approach would better fit his group of players. Something isn’t clicking and it’s up to Savarese to figure out how to change that.

Why is the club struggling to communicate on the field?

While it isn’t surprising to see the Timbers taking time to adjust to a new coach and style, the lack of communication on the field has been shocking. The Timbers have a handful of key new players on their roster this season, but the majority of the starters have played together in the past and appeared to have good chemistry last season. But this year, the Timbers have struggled all across the field in the opening two games. The players have failed to anticipate each other’s passes and movements and conceded way too many turnovers in the opening matches. The lack of communication between Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson and defender Larrys Mabiala led to moment in Saturday’s match in New York where neither player went for a ball in the box, enabling the Red Bulls to get off an open shot. Finding a way to fix the communication issues on the field needs to be a priority for the Timbers.

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