PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 12: Head coach John Spencer of the Portland Timbers pounds his chest to the fans as he runs off the field after the game against the Philadelphia Union at JELD-WEN Field on March 12, 2012 in Portland, Oregon. The Timbers won the game 3-1. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Game day! Also another chance for the Portland Timbers to redeem themselves after an early lull in the season. I know we had all hoped for a great, exciting start to the season, but, unfortunately, that just doesn't happen sometimes. The optimist inside me wants me to compare the current Timbers to last year's Seattle Sounders (I know, I know! Don't forsake me yet though!), not in the make up of their team, but in the way they started 2011 slowly, but ultimately ended it very strong.
If the Portland Timbers can nab three points today it'll slot them in nicely in the middle of the Western Conference. Not ideal, mind you, but well enough considering we are still very early in the season.
So, let's take a look at each team:
Assessing Our Team
Coming off a couple losses is difficult. No doubt about it. So today's game will be a mental test of sorts to see if the Timbers have the resolve to not sink within their own psyche and win the tree points that both teams so desperately need right now.Unfortunately, the Timbers' injury list is still among the longest in the league and, despite some improvements by David Horst, we're looking at a similar set up as with what we saw against Real Salt Lake in terms of the center back positions. I'm not super confident that either Hanyer Mosquera or David Horst will be fit enough to actually make it out today which leaves Eric Brunner paired up with rookie Andrew Jean-Baptiste. Let's just hope they don't break down in the 85th minute again.
Aside from the center backs there are a few positional changes I would like to see today. The first being to start Mike Chabala over Rodney Wallace. Until the center defensive issues and midfield issues get worked out the Timbers need to think more defensively than they have and Rodney Wallace is just too offensive right now. Additionally, as good as Eric Alexander was against Real Salt Lake, I really want to see Songo'o start and play a full match. He's just bursting with potential and I think it's time to let him out a bit.
Aside from that I think last week's offensive pair up top were solid enough so long as the Timbers allow Darlington Nagbe to move as he pleases. I'm not yet sold on him as an out and out striker, but rather as a CAM of sorts. Really just let the guy do what he needs to do because... it's working.
Predicted (hopeful) starting line up:
Troy Perkins; Lovel Palmer, Eric Brunner, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Mike Chabala; Darlington Nagbe, Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury (c), Franck Songo'o, Jorge Perlaza, Kris Boyd
Assessing the Enemy
What to say about Chivas USA that we don't already know? Well for starters, check out both my preview interview with Alicia Ratterree of The Goat Parade and Ryan's preview article concerning the game to get a better perspective.
Aside from that there's not much more to say about the team. They're desperate for points, but a number of their key players won't be traveling for today's game: Juan Pablo Angel, Peter Vagenas, David Junior Lopes Jorge Villafana. Why? Well if rumors are to be believed then, at least as far as JPA goes, it's because of the field turf... cry me a river.
What we do know is that they're very defensively minded. Having only allowed in a single goal for each game. That said, we also know they're not terrible offensive so that should play well into the Timbers' struggling backline at the moment.
Here's their predicted starting line up:
Not too much more to add. Should the Timbers lose tonight's game it will firmly plant them in the lower end of the Western Conference. In fact, should the LA Galaxy win tonight, it could put them in dead last. Not an enviable position at all. So a win tonight would be both a morale victory, but also a necessary win in order to stay above the bottom of the pack. Additionally, it would be nice to get a win prior to heading down to Los Angeles to play against the LA Galaxy.
Tonight's game kicks off at Jeld-Wen Field at 7:30 PM on Fox12.