COMMERCE CITY, CO - MARCH 19: Kenny Cooper #33 of the Portland Timbers reacts after scoring a goal against the Colorado Rapids at Dicks Sporting Goods Park on March 19, 2011 in Commerce City, Colorado. The Rapids defeated teh Timbers 3-1. (Photo by Michael Martin/Getty Images)
Two and a half months ago, the Portland Timbers kicked off their inaugural MLS season with a defeat. Not just any defeat, mind you, with a harrowing 3-1 loss where the opposing team dominated almost every aspect of the pitch. That team was tonight's foe, the Colorado Rapids.
It was a harrowing experience for those of us who thought that the pre-season would be indicative of the regular season. Worse still, the singular Tmbers goal didn't come from a attacking play, but rather a set piece. Something the Timbers have become infamous for. Those are legitimate goals, mind you, I just prefer to see an attack building up to be executed with precision.
Anyway, tonight the Timbers host the Colorado Rapids at Jeld-Wen Field. They've lost their early season spunk and will be playing without a couple key players. Likewise the Timbers aren't the same as they were back in March. Now is as good a time as any to enact swift revenge.
Assessing Our Team
The Timbers are on somewhat of a losing streak right now. Nothing major, but when you lose your last two games, it's something to take note of. While the guys have yet to win away from home, winning at home is still just as important. Those three points are desperately needed to ensure the Timbers remain in play-off contention in what is arguably the stronger of the two conferences.The big thing issue tonight will be, as usual, attempting to get the offense to actual make dangerous plays. A goal in the run of play would be very nice, but, at the very least, I'd simply like Jorge Perlaza and Kenny Cooper to be making plays that don't ultiamtely end up with one of them getting pulled down or offsides. Far too many times do the attacking runs get stopped before they even get started and, quite frankly, it's getting a little tiresome at this point.
Of course to get these plays running the midfield will have to regain its form. Kalif Alhassan has seemed less squirmy than before and Diego Chara hasn't been able to keep up like we hoped he would (although we can still cut him some slack as he wasn't here for pre-season).
Some good news coming out of the Timbers camp today is that it doesn't look like Darlington Nagbe was placed on the injured list at all. Hopefully this means he is back in the starting spot as usual. Many of you will prbably want Sal Zizzo to keep the starting spot, however, as fast and speedy as he is I feel more confident with Nagbe in. Zizzo is also a fantastic cannon to set loose in the 60th-70th minute.
Here's my expected line up:
Sal Zizzo could get the start, but I don't believe he has done enough to warrant the starting position. We'll see.
Assessing the Enemy
We know that Colorado's star Jamaican forward Omar Cummings will not be playing tonight. That much is a given and, honestly, we can be pretty thankful for it. Two of Colorado's goals last March came were directly influenced by Cummings and, with the team's confidence shaky as it is, it's probably best there isn't a speedy forward to muck things up for the defense. That said, UZ from Burgundy Wave has assured me that Jamie Smith will be making the trip for tonight's game. You should remember him as the guy who blasted in that screamer of a goal from the 25th-ish yard line.
That said, the Colorado Rapids, as with the Timbers, aren't the same team as they were back in the first game. The Colorado Rapids have also suffered a series of disappointing games largely due to injuries and, ahem, reckless fouls. It will be interesting to see the differences in tonight's game as compared to just a few months ago given the drastic changes in each teams' line up.
Here's Colorado's projected starting line up:
This is a must win game for the Timbers tonight. No doubt about it. Portland's confidence is shaky, they've played like crap for the last 4-5 games and they've lost the last two. Tonight is a chance and opportunity to right the ship that has been wronged and who better to "right" it against than the team that delivered Portland's first ever MLS defeat. If the Timbers come out, play confidently, and, dare I say, get an actual goal in the run of play tonight then we could be looking at reliving the glory days of mid-April.
Tonight's game kicks off at 7:30 PM. It is being locally broadcast on ROOT Sports and nationally on Galavision for our Hispanic fans.