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MLS Western Conference: Portland Timbers break a streak, underrated stars & more on each team

We’re dissecting every MLS team in the Western Conference.

15 min read

Welcome back our two-part weekly MLS column here at Backheeled, where we break down all 29 teams in the league.

I’ve got the West. Ben Wright’s got the East. Riqui Puig has a new look. Let’s chat about the latest for each Western Conference squad, shall we?

To read up on the East, check out Ben’s rundown.

MLS Eastern Conference: Julian Carranza’s potential transfer, Chicago Fire’s tactical change & more on each team
We’re dissecting every MLS team in the Eastern Conference.

Austin FC

Result: 1-1 draw at San Jose Earthquakes

Called it? Called it.

Last week, Austin FC officially bought out Emiliano Rigoni’s contract, ending the 31-year-old’s massively underwhelming stint in Texas and opening a crucial DP spot for sporting director Rodolfo Borrell to play with during the summer window. With middling-to-poor stats and season after season of limited minutes, it was always hard to spot much merit in Rigoni joining as a DP back in 2022. 

It pays, I suppose, to be friends with Sebastian Driussi. For a time, it also paid to be anywhere near Claudio Reyna’s rolodex.

Thankfully for Austin fans, the club is now Borrell’s ship to steer. The first major domino in a larger rebuild has fallen — and it’s one step in the right direction with a replacement on the way

While we’re on the topic of revisiting takes that have aged well, I’m re-upping this analysis from Austin’s narrow result against the Houston Dynamo from a month ago as a description of their narrow result against the Quakes:

Austin FC so badly need more top-end attacking talent to give Sebastian Driussi some help as the Argentine roams in the left halfspace. Expect a sizable chunk of the points Austin secure between now and what should be a busy summer transfer window to be the sort of smash-and-grab results they pulled off against Houston.

With just five shots to San Jose’s 22 and their lone goal coming off a set piece, Saturday’s result was the definition of a smash-and-grab for Austin.

Colorado Rapids

Result: 3-3 draw vs. Minnesota United

It was impossible for me to feel anything other than pure joy on behalf of Kevin Cabral after he scored his first brace in MLS play since arriving as a DP for the LA Galaxy back in 2021. 

The dude just hasn’t put it together in MLS — the Parisian’s three goals this year now put his 2024 scoring tally ahead of each of his last two seasons. Still, the close-but-no-cigar attacker who’s finally come good (even for a moment) is an easy person to root for. Cabral’s been the butt of a metric ton of jokes in MLS circles for years now, so it’s been fun to see the winger come up big at times for the Colorado Rapids.

Tactically, things were a bit messy for the Rapids in their high-scoring draw with Minnesota United. 

They had plenty of attacking joy, but also consistently left themselves exposed on the defensive end. Want an example? The rest defense — a team’s structure in possession that helps protect themselves even after they lose the ball — on this play legitimately made my jaw drop, and not in a good way:

This is the kind of stuff that can’t happen if you want to win a playoff series. And at this point in the year, that’s the kind of goal that should be guiding decisions in Colorado.

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