Despite the exciting day yesterday with regards to transfers and retirements today is still game day and, as such, it's time to do our usual preparation for what could be the biggest game yet of the season for the Portland Timbers due to the implications of a win tonight.
As most of us know, Sporting Kansas City are currently unbeaten this season having accrued 21 points over their first 7 games. It's an impressive start for a team that, this time last season, was in just about the same position as the Timbers are now. This is good news on a couple fronts: first, it shows that the Timbers aren't to be counted out yet and second, that a win against them tonight could launch them into their own winning streak much as the home win against the LA Galaxy last summer did.
Let's take a quick look at each team:
Assessing Our Team
The Timbers are coming off yet another loss in their recent losing streak, but that doesn't mean they haven't shown glimpses of greatness. In fact, if anything I'd say they've been gradually becoming the team we all wanted them to be after the Philadelphia Union game this season. While a 3-1 defeat against LA looks bad, the reality is that the Timbers dominated the first have, and should have had two goals. The loss is merely indicative of their 80th minute mentality which they can and will break.
Of course, the big news heading into tonight's match is the acquisition of Mike Fucito from the Montreal Impact. Those of you who followed the Seattle Sounders at all last year will remember a certain goal from him against SKC that won him many fans up north. Unfortunately, despite this, we won't be seeing him tonight. The reality of the situation is that the deal came too late and he probably hasn't even left Montreal yet.
In other, injury related news, both Kalif Alhassan and Rodney Wallace remain on the injury list ahead of tonight's match. We probably will not be seeing Alhassan at all tonight, but the ball is still in the air on Wallace. Personally, I've been enjoying Chabala at the left back position and would prefer he remains regardless.
Aside from that it appears to be business as usual. With Hanyer Mosquera healthy I expect to see him next to Eric Brunner once again. It'll be interesting to see if he can maintain his momentum that he acquired after what was a pretty good game against LA, despite the ultimate loss.
Predicted starting line up:
Assessing the Enemy
What's there to say about Sporting Kansas City that we haven't already hear the mainstream media gush over already? Fact is is that they're a great team. The best in the league, in fact, and tonight's match won't be an easy one. Their most recent victory saw them beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 away from home last Wednesday. That's an impressive feat for any team, but to go away from home and win 3-1...
The good news, for us, is that SKC's
attacking mid Julio Cesar is listed as OUT for the game tonight which should, hopefully, ease up the attack a bit. Then again he wasn't able to play against the Whitecaps either and we saw how that turned out.
What the Timbers are dealing with tonight is a team much like the 2010 Real Salt Lake squad where in they're an incredibly close knit group of players that are gelling very well. Unlike the Los Angeles Galaxy or New York Red Bulls, they're not being lifted up by mega-million dollar starts but rather through the combined effort of an incredibly well oiled machine. This sort of team is all the more dangerous, in my opinion, because you can never truly tell where the threats are going to come from.
Here's the highlight's from their game against Vancouver:
Hopefully, that will give you a bit of perspective on the team we face tonight.
A win tonight would be huge for the Timbers. If they can come out, dominate the field and capitalize on the road weariness of a Sporting Kansas City team that allowed its first goal over 400 minutes last Wednesday then they can take the momentum in against an arguably much weaker Montreal Impact side, albeit on the road. The Timbers need the confidence. They need the momentum. And, hell, they need the 3 points. We're not a bottom dwelling team and it's time for the Timbers to stop acting like it.
Timbers: Troy Perkins; Steve Purdy, Hanyer Mosquera, Eric Brunner, Mike Chabala; Darlingon Nagbe, Jack Jewsbury-C, Lovel Palmer, Diego Chara; Jorge Perlaza, Kris Boyd
Bench: Brian Rowe, Franck Songo'o, Brent Richards, Eric Alexander, Bright Dike, Freddie Braun, Andrew Jean-Baptiste
Sporting: Jimmy Nielsen-C; Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; Julio Cesar, Roger Espinoza, Graham Zusi; Kei Kamara, CJ Sapong, Bobby Convey
Bench: John Kempin, Michael Harrington, Lawrence Olum, Luke Sassano, Paulo Nagamura, Jacob Peterson, Teal Bunbury
Tonight's match is on ROOT SPORTS at Jeld-Wen Field at 7:30pm.