Gonzalo Pineda hopes to see his Atlanta United side continue its strong start to the MLS season against the Portland Timbers after producing one of its most “complete” performances to thrash Charlotte FC.
Young fullback Caleb Wiley scored twice as Atlanta cruised to a 3-0 win at Charlotte, moving United to the top of the Eastern Conference with seven points from three games.
After only winning back-to-back games once during a disappointing 2022 season, Atlanta has recorded the best start in its MLS history in 2023.
“It was one of the most complete games,” Pineda said of the Five Stripes’ performance against Charlotte. “Was it perfect? No, we weren’t disrupting their pressure or dominating possession, but I’m happy with blocking shots and crosses and being good in transition.”
Pineda also commented on Wiley’s strong play.
“It’s a team sport and everyone is important. The team plays well. You will see individuals shine, for example Thiago (Almada) last week,” he said. “It was a great performance by Caleb, he was very good defensively and we are very high on him and think he will be a great player. Hopefully this game gives him more confidence.”
The Timbers are eighth in the Western Conference’s early-season standings, having won one and lost two of their first three fixtures.
Having fallen to a 2-1 defeat at home to St Louis City SC last time out, the Timbers have moved to strengthen their attacking options with the acquisition of Ivorian forward Franck Boli.
Boli scored 42 times in 126 appearances for Hungarian side Ferencvaros, and he will provide competition for the likes of Santiago Moreno and Nathan Fogaca.
Head coach Giovanni Savarese hopes the forward’s arrival will help to kick-start their campaign.
“We’re excited to welcome Franck to Portland,” he said. “I feel confident that adding another attacking piece like Boli into our team will give us the possibility to be more competitive.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Atlanta United – Caleb Wiley
Wiley scored with both of his two shots and recorded an assist with his only chance created last Saturday against Charlotte. At the age of 18 years and 79 days, that performance saw Wiley become the fifth-youngest player to record three goal contributions in an MLS fixture.
Portland – Nathan Fogaca
Portland has scored in 23 consecutive MLS games dating back to last season, a club record and the longest active streak in the competition.
Brazilian forward Fogaca is yet to score with his team-high six shots for Portland this campaign, and he will be keen to get off the mark for a side which tends to trouble the scoresheet.
MATCH PREDICTION – ATLANTA UNITED WIN
– Atlanta has taken seven points from its first three games of the season (W2 D1) – the highest tally in its MLS history.
– Saturday’s game will represent Portland’s first trip to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium since it lost the 2018 MLS Cup final 2-0 to Atlanta. However, the Timbers did get their first win over the Five Stripes when the teams last met – a 2-1 home victory last September.
– While the Timbers have recorded just three points so far this season, they have made the playoffs in five of the previous eight campaigns in which they earned three points or fewer at this stage, reaching the MLS Cup final in three of them (2015, 2018 and 2021).
OPTA WIN PROBABILITY
Atlanta United 44.8 per cent
Portland 27.4 per cent
Draw 27.8 per cent