What a gorgeous day it is! I honestly don't think we could have asked for better weather to conclude the pre-season than what we have today considering the time of year. Those of you who were out in the cold for the other two pre-season games should especially relish tonight's weather. Anyway, I digress.
Turning back toward the game at hand, as already mentioned, tonight is the final conclusion to not only the pre-season tournament, but really the pre-season as a whole. Next Saturday (six days away) will see the official start of the MLS season and the Portland Timbers, as with most other MLS teams, will be turning full focus in this week's training towards the start of the season. The Timbers, of course, don't officially kick off their season until Monday night against the Philadelphia Union.
Let's see what we can expect tonight:
Assessing Our Team
The big news ahead of tonight's game is the emergence of Kris Boyd. Yes, that's correct. After being out for a very minor injury for the past week or so, it looks like our star striker will finally be able to take the field in front of an actual crowd. This is both huge news for the fans (who obviously want to see their team's investment in action) and for the team itself who has been on somewhat of a goal scoring drought during the pre-season compared to when they were in LA.
Unfortunately it appears that we'll still be minus recent signee Franck Songo'o as he doesn't yet appear to be back in Portland. In a twitter post about 20 minutes ago he wrote:
Go @TimbersFC #RCTID ( can't wait to be back )
Unfortunate, but moving ones entire self across the world is a slow process.
As for the rest of the team, I expect to see largely the usual starting 11 as we saw last Monday with a few changes to coincide with the return of Futty Danso and Rodney Wallace. Steve Purdy was, as we know, injured so he'll be out for a while.
Here's my predicted starting line up:
- GK: Troy Perkins
- DEF: Lovel Palmer, Futty Danso, Hanyer Mosquera, Rodney Wallace
- MID: Darlington Nagbe, Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury (c), Kalif Alhassan
- FWD: Kris Boyd, Jorge Perlaza
Assessing The Enemy
Before I begin, I strongly recommend you reading Kejsare's interview with AIK blogger Georg Süss. Since the Timbers FO and AIK's FO plan on having a relationship going forward it's probably best to know more about the team and Kejsare did an excellent job asking questions and Georg did not disappoint in his answers.
Aside from that, I've witness both of AIK's game so far and do have a little analysis on what we can expect. Of course, I am, by no means, an expert. This is merely my observations from Monday.
What I did see, however, is a team that's both technically skilled up top and in the midfield as well as physical like many other MLS teams. Against Chivas USA, where they won 2-nil, we saw some great final third passing and crosses that lead to a number of chances by AIK. While Chivas may have thought they held onto the dominance in the first half, my own witness account was that it was really more like the first 15 or so minutes before AIK really pushed into third gear and became dominant throughout. This game really showed how technically skilled some of their players are and what kind of damage they can do.
Their match against San Jose was a different story entirely and it showed different aspects of the team in a game that slogged to a nil-nil draw. However, we saw a physicality against San Jose that perhaps wasn't quite their against Chivas USA. In it AIK's players were stronger and more liable to push around San Jose's players than against Chivas.
So what does this all mean? Essentially it means they have a great combination of bruisers and skilled soccer players which can certainly do damage. It's my opinion that a team like AIK would fit ion quite well in MLS given their physicality. Something that can't be said for most other teams in the world.
Once again, we will be running our live blog through CoverItLive! Sometime during this week we'll issue a poll to figure out which ones you guys prefer, but, as usual, always feel free to vice your opinion in the thread comments.