Following a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of the Seattle Sounders to restart the MLS regular season, Timbers fans had reason to be cautious heading into Sunday's match.
Instead, the Timbers ended a three-game winless streak by defeating the Sounders 2-1 at CenturyLink Field but the trip up north was not all good news for the boys in green.
Midfielder Sebastián Blanco suffered a right knee injury that would cause him to miss the rest of the match. He would remain down on the sidelines before bursting into tears and being carried off on a stretcher. Further examination of the injury will take place when the team gets back to Portland.
"Right now it is on the right leg around the knee," said Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese. "So tomorrow we will see after we evaluate every possibility. We'll understand a lot more exactly what happened... Hopefully he's going to be fine. We'll see."
While there's no official word on the severity of Blanco's injury, it would be surprising if he can return to the pitch anytime soon given the Timbers have just two regular-season games remaining, both of which will be played next week. Therefor, the Timbers will need to prepare for a future without Blanco on the field.
Replacing the MLS is Back Tournament MVP will be no easy task as Blanco was arguably the Timbers best player so far in the 2020 MLS season.
"You go back to the MLS is Back Tournament, he was the MVP," explained Savarese. "In this team he is someone that is well-liked by everybody. He's a competitor. He's a motivator. He just makes a difference on the field. He's a very important player and... very important component on our team."
To replicate his production, it will need to be done by committee. No single Timber will step into his role and be able to score three goals and five assists in seven matches like Blanco did in Orlando. But as a team, Portland stands a chance.
All season long, Savarese has lauded at the offensive talent he possesses in his rotation, specifically at striker between Jeremy Ebobisse, Jaroslaw Niezgoda, and Felipe Mora.
"It's a good problem for me to have. It's always good to have this type of strikers that can produce."
The latter of those three has scored in each of Portland's last three games, including the game-winner in Seattle Sunday evening.
"He's showing the quality that he has every time he steps on the field. He's a player that is dangerous, clever, has good ideas, good movement, can pressure a little bit higher," explained Savarese about Mora.
Now with Blanco potentially out of the 18, those players will need to play out-of-position to create more chances for the Timbers offensive attack.
Ebobisse has already began playing elsewhere than striker, being placed at right midfielder to start the game against Seattle with Savarese starting Niezgoda at striker before substituting him off for Mora in the 70th minute.
"Jebo today, the work that he did was incredible on the side. As a winger, he becomes a second striker coming from the side from a wide area and then Niezgoda also had a great game... He put himself in very good moments which in that created opportunities," elaborated Savarese.
Niezgoda and Ebobisse were guaranteed many minutes as both have performed quite well this season, but Mora, Eryk Williamson, who had a goal and assist against Seattle, and newly-acquired Yimmi Chara will see increased opportunity given the absence of Blanco.
Will it be enough? Time will tell.
Next up, Portland will travel to Los Angeles to play LAFC on Sunday, September 13 at 8:00 p.m. PT. in a rematch of their Group F matchup inside the Orlando bubble.