Is Mabiala ready to start for Timbers?
Coming off a two-week break, the Portland Timbers return to MLS competition at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday by playing host to Real Salt Lake at Providence Park.
Despite not posting a win since June 10, Portland (7-7-6, 27 points) remains fourth in the tight Western Conference.
Plenty of questions remain about who will be in uniform for Portland.
Darlington Nagbe (United States), David Guzman (Costa Rica), Darren Mattocks (Jamaica) and Alvas Powell (Jamaica) are away for Gold Cup quarterfinal matches this week.
Liam Ridgewell and Amobi Okugo are sidelined with long-term injuries.
And the starters coach Caleb Porter lists as questionable include midfielder Diego Chara and left back Vytas, who departed with hamstring tightness late in Portland's July 5 draw with Chicago.
On the plus side, new central defender Larrys Mabiala is eligible to make his Timbers debut. But Porter has not publicly committed to starting Mabiala, noting center backs must be fit enough to play 90 minutes in order to start. Mabiala has trained for two weeks with the Timbers after a break of several weeks at the end of the season with his previous club in Turkey.
The lineup uncertainty has not impacted the club's confidence. according to Porter. He says the two most recent matches — draws with Sporting Kansas City and Chicago — were two of Portland's best performances of the season.
"What I've really liked recently is even though we've been banged up and injured our identity's been very clear," Porter says. "We've played aggressively, and in my opinion two of our best performances of the year were our last two games."
The same might be said of Real Salt Lake, ninth in the conference at 6-12-2 (20 points). RSL posted a 6-2 road win over the Los Angeles Galaxy in its most recent MLS match and on Monday played well in a friendly against Manchester United. In that game, the presumptive Wednesday starters played the first half hour and dictated much of the play, taking a 1-0 lead before the English club won, 2-1.
Top RSL scorer Yura Movsisyan (six goals in MLS this year) is questionable with a hip problem. He did not play in Monday's exhibition.
But young designated players Jefferson Savarino and Albert Rusnak accounted for three goals and an assist in the blowout win at Los Angeles on July 4. Rusnak, a 23-year-old from the Czech Republic, leads RSL with seven assists and is second on the team with four goals. Savarino, a 20-year-old Venezuelan, has two goals and two assists in nine MLS matches.
Led by 10 goals apiece from Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi, the Timbers have 34 goals in 20 games. RSL, even with those six goals at L.A., has scored only 23 in 20 matches (while allowing 40).
Valeri was named Tuesday to the 24-player roster for the MLS All-Star Game. The MLS All-Stars take on Real Madrid on Aug. 2 at Soldier Field in Chicago.
It will be the second All-Star Game for the fifth-year Timbers midfielder. Valeri assisted on the game-winning goal in 2014, when the match was played in Portland and the MLS stars beat Bayern Munich, 2-1. Valeri was an inactive selection to the All-Star team in 2013 and 2016.
MLS All-Star team
Goalkeepers — Stefan Frei (Seattle), Tim Howard (Colorado).
Defenders — DaMarcus Beasley (Houston), Greg Garza (Atlanta), Hernán Grana (Dallas), Matt Hedges (Dallas), Johan Kappelhof (Chicago), Michael Parkhurst (Atlanta), Jelle Van Damme (Los Angeles), Graham Zusi (Kansas City).
Midfielders — x-Kellyn Acosta (Dallas), Miguel Almirón (Atlanta), Michael Bradley (Toronto), Giovani dos Santos (Los Angeles), Kaká (Orlando City), Dax McCarty (Chicago), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Chicago), Diego Valeri (Portland).
Forwards — Jozy Altidore (Toronto), x-Dom Dwyer (Kansas City), Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto), Nemanja Nikoli? (Chicago), David Villa (New York City)
x — indicates Commissioner Don Garber's picks