Game day! It's been quite a while since our last and, as such, the Portland Timbers are currently behind the rest of the Western Conference in games played. This gives the Timbers a slight advantage as well as the opportunity to leap frog both Los Angeles based teams, the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA, should the results pan out how we like. A win tonight would put them over Chivas and even with LA. A win of 2-nil would then put the Timbers at the advantage over LA in terms of GD. Mostly symbolic, but I think it's important at this to see the rise in the standings and not be at the bottom.
But Houston isn't here to make it easy on the Timbers. So, without further ado, let's take a look at each side:
Assessing Our Team
We saw a fairly drastic change in the line up last week against the Columbus Crew. In it Jack Jewsbury retreated from his usual center midfield position and took the reigns of the right back position, a historically weak section for the Timbers in MLS. Additionally, we saw Futty Danso return to form and take over Eric Brunner's usual position. The addition of these two in the back line dramatically improved the defense of the team.Unfortunately, while the defense is now starting to shape up, we've yet to see a competent attack formation from the Timbers since the home opener against the Philadelphia Union. While Kris Boyd remains technically skilled, and the combination of Darlington Nagbe or Jorge Perlaza, there continues to be a disconnect that's causing the Timbers to remain a low-scoring team.
As such, I'm thinking it's time to pair Boyd up with somebody new, or newer rather... Mike Fucito. This is nothing against either Jorge Perlaza, or Darlington Nagbe, both of whom are talented forwards, but rather finding a combination that works. After nine games, I think that time has come.
Here's my predicted/hoped for starting line up:
Assessing the Enemy
We saw what Zach Woosley of Dynamo Theory had to say about the Houston Dynamo yesterday during my interview with him. If you haven't checked it out yet I do recommend it as it's important to get that kind of perspective if you care at all about who the other team is.
Aside from that there are two things to note about Houston:
First, they just opened their brand new stadium after being on the road since March. Remember the winning stream the Timbers went on at home last year after Jeld-Wen Field opened? Remember how well Sporting KC did when Livestron Sporting Park opened? Yeah... it's a fairly commong, recurring theme. As such, the Timbers should be prepared for an organized and energized home Houston team.
The godd news, and second point I'd like to make, is that they're also a fairly tired team right now. Having played last Wednesday the 9th, then last Saturday the 12th and then today the 15th they're on 3 games in less than a week. Worse yet, for them, they've got another game this Saturday. So naturally they'll be a little tired tonight and they'll be switching players around. The hope is that this will benefit the Timbers in some way, but that's not always the case...
Being the only Western Conference team below double digit points is tough. Having the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Seattle Sounders having almost two and three times more points, respectively, that us is even tougher. However, it could be worse. And despite all the Timbers' misfortune this season at least they're playing better than Toronto FC. For those of you who thought that this was supposed to be the Timbers year, look back at TFC's record and see what their constant spending and wishful thinking has done them over the years.
Jack Jewsbury, Hanyer Mosquera, Futty Danso, Steven Smith
Franck Songo'o, Diego Chara, Lovel Palmer, Rodney Wallace
Darlington Nagbe, Kris Boyd
Tonight's match is at Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium at 5:30 PM on ROOT SPORTS.