PORTLAND, OR - MAY 06: The starting eleven players of the Portland Timbers pose for a pregame photo against the Philadelphia Union on May 6, 2011 at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
The Portland Timbers have gone on a pretty impressive run these last few weeks with only a single loss and a single tie in the regular season since the home opener against the Chicago Fire. Part of me is jubilant that the Timbers are resisting the trend to be just another "expansion" team in their first year in MLS. Another part of me is getting a little worried about over confidence and arrogance. Yes, the guys are unbeaten at home and playing in front of the Timbers Army is no doubt a challenge, but they will lose eventually.
It's important for both the players and fans to realize that no team will ever be perfect home or away.
Anyway, enough somber discussion on overconfidence, let's take a look at tonight's upcoming match!
Assessing Our Team
The Timbers are coming off an impressive draw against a Seattle Sounders side that was the favorite heading in, given that the Timbers have yet to win away. While it wasn't technically a win, it definitely felt like one after the final whistle blew. Likewise, I'm sure for many Seattle fans it felt like a loss.
Still today is a new week and a new game against an opponent who, until last week, was on a seven game unbeaten streak. They'll be looking to jump right back on the wagon after going down like that.
I'm expecting the usual starting line up tonight with possibly a couple exceptions. Both captain jack Jewsbury and Darlington Nagbe picked up minor injuries during training and have been put on the "Probable" list for tonight's game. Essentially it's up to John Spencer to decide if he wants to risk playing them. My guess is that jewsbury will definitely be playing and that Sal Zizzo might start ahead of Darlington Nagbe. As such here's my predicted starting line up:
It will be interesting to see how Zizzo plays if he were to be offered the full 90 minutes.
Another interesting turn of events is Brian Umony getting healthier, having been placed on the "Probable" list as well. While he won't start, it would be interesting to see him take the field once again as a sub.
Assessing the Enemy
I wrote a detailed question and answering preview yesterday that you should probably check out. In brief, however, we're looking at a team that has been in rather surprising form since the beginning of the season.
During the off-season this past winter the Columbus Crew went on a sort of "house cleaning" that ditched a few of their key players, most notably Guillermo Barros Schelotto. As such nobody really expected the team to do well this season as they were meant to be "rebuilding." As fate would have it, however, they were able to going on a rather comfortable undefeated streak which lasted seven games until losing to the San Jose Earthquakes last week 3 - 0.
Columbus has been playing in a rather conservative manner up until this point, usually only deploying a single striker, Emilio Renteria as such they've essentially been winning off their defense with the likes of Chad Marshall being the big centerback defender who's absolutely going to cause problems for Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza.
Another thing to note is that just because they've typically been using a single striker up until now, reports out of Columbus have stated they've been training with two strikers this past week which means we could see a slight shake up up top.
This is a game the Portland Timbers should win. Games that teams should win are always the most dangerous given a healthy amount of over confidence which leads players to get sloppy. I'm not saying this will happen tonight, but it's something to be worried about. The Timbers have this "new kid on the block" air about them right now as they ride high. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if an older MLS team like Columbus were able to knock them down a bit.
Still, on paper the Timbers should be able to lock this one away, especially at home. Anything less will be disappointing.
Tonight's match kicks off at 8:00 PM at Jeld-Wen Field. Fox 12 will be airing tonight's game.