LAFC will get its first look at newly renovated Providence Park and its last look — for perhaps as long as six weeks — at five key players Saturday when the top team in MLS travels to Portland, Ore., to meet the Timbers.
Portland played its first 12 games on this road this season while its cozy downtown stadium was undergoing an $85-million face-lift. The game Saturday will be the first at the new Providence Park, which got a three-tier addition that increased capacity by more than 4,000.
After the game LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman, goalkeeper Tyler Miller, forward Christian Ramirez and midfielders Mark-Anthony Kaye and Peter-Lee Vassell could all be heading off to practice with their national teams ahead of this month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Zimmerman, Miller and Ramirez have been named to the 40-man preliminary roster for the U.S. That roster will be trimmed further Saturday. Kaye will play for Canada while Vassell is on Jamaica’s provisional 40-man roster.
LAFC (10-1-4) hopes to head into that four-week break riding a wave of momentum. Behind captain Carlos Vela, who leads the league in goals (15) and assists (nine), LAFC is on pace for the best season in league history.
Ramirez said the team, unbeaten in its last seven games, is being careful not to get ahead of itself.
“We’re just approaching it like we have from the start of the season: One week at a time,” he said. “The mentality has been really good and I think that’s what has set us apart so far.”
LAFC played its first six games on the road last season so Bradley said he has some idea what it will be like for the Timbers (4-6-2), who have the most wins in the conference at home the last three seasons, to finally play in front of their rabid supporters. In its last six games, Portland won four times and tied once.
“Anyone who’s ever been to Portland knows that the atmosphere is fantastic,” Bradley said. “And if you take into account it’s their home opener after 12 games, then you can multiply by 10 or 20 and know that we’re going into a tough place.”
LAFC again will be missing right back Steven Beitashour because of a left hamstring strain. Bradley expects to again use Tristan Blackmon in Beitashour’s absence.