Portland Timbers Face Their Most Challenging Opponents in Their Most Important Game [Preview]

CARSON CA - JULY 4: Landon Donovan #10 of the Los Angeles Galaxy warms up before the game against the Seattle Sounders FC on July 4 2010 at the Home Depot Center in Carson California. Donovan is playing in his first MLS game since returning from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)

Tomorrow the Los Angeles Galaxy visits Jeld-Wen Field to take on our own Portland Timbers... and the timing couldn't be worse. As much as it'll be fun to watch one of the most expensive teams play in our backyard, the Timbers as we know them now are struggling too much in too many places to be taking on the league leaders. This, of course, is compounded by the fact that with each middling draw and devastating loss the play-off hopes of the fans and team dwindle.

So when the LA Galaxy take the field tomorrow night, it'll be under the presumption from most pundits around the nation that they'll be flying home with three points. Something I don't relish thinking about, but can't help but agree with. If ever there was an unclimbable wall in the guise of an MLS team it would be Los Angeles.

But enough doom and gloom, let's look at some positives.

David and Goliath

It's easy to make this comparison between our two teams. In terms of the average salary, amount of DPs, and even the average age of the players the Portland Timbers are every bit the David to Los Angeles' Goliath. But, for those unfamiliar with the tale, the winner of said match up wasn't, in fact, the large behemoth but rather the small David. It's not entirely inconceivable that this could happen once again.

Let's take a look at the last few games against the top 3 teams in the Eastern and the Western Conferences played at home:

Obviously, LA has not yet played in Portland so we can't include them.

Essentially, what we see here is a trend of Portland winning, or playing well when the opposing team is supposedly the far better team. This meaning that when Portland is facing a strong opponent they stand up far better than the otherwise would against other teams.

Even in the New York and Seattle games at home, the Timbers actually had the lead on the team each time until the end of the match (an entirely new problem not discussed in this preview). Despite LA being the biggest of these bunch, I would hope that trend continues.

An Impressive Arsenal

Of course, the biggest problem when facing a team like Los Angeles is their form and composure on the field which translates into a very impressive arsenal. Up top they're lead by the likes of Chad Barrett, who has four goals and three assists to his name thus far, and Juan Pablo Angel who has three goals. Each, while not the top goal scorers for the team, are impressive players that will cause problems for the Timbers weak backline (should they play... injuries), as they did in our last meeting.

Then, of course, you've got a midfield being commanded by the likes of Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Junihno. Both Donovan and Beckham are leading in goals and assists, respectively. Luckily for us, and were the team not in such a perilous position right now I might say otherwise, both Landon Donovan and David Beckham are listed as "questionable" currently on the bench. I don't know if either will start, but I'd hope that neither do.

Finally looking at the defensive backline you've got three key names in Sean Franklin (who played a large amount in the MLS All Star match), Omar Gonzalez and Todd Dunivant. Each of these players has been integral to the stability and consistency of the Galaxy's last few successful years. While Gonzalez is currently listed as questionable, we absolutely will be seeing Franklin and Dunivant on the field.

Of course, despite all these injuries and possible no-shows, this is still going to be a very tough game. The Galaxy have something that the Timbers currently lack and that's depth. While there is no true replacement for Donovan or Beckham on the field, they'll certainly find players to patch those holes in a respectable manner. Take a look at their second goalkeeper as an example of that. Ricketts is out with an injury right now so Josh Saunders has stepped up and he's been doing a great job of it. I expect that to continue.

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Tomorrow's match kicks off at 7:30 PM at Jeld-Wen Field. Those of you at home can catch the game on ESPN2 or ESPN3.com.

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