It's been a long time coming and truly this international break has seemingly gone on for forever but the wait is now over! As of 4:00 PM this evening we will, once again, see our Portland Timbers take the field against the LA Galaxy, a team they don't have a great record against away from home. But now is another chance to remedy that.
In any case, later today we will, indeed, see the Timbers take on the Galaxy for the second time this year (remember it's two away, one at home this year). It's a great chance for the Timbers to earn three points and move closer to taking that fifth Western Conference play off spot away from the Colorado Rapids who lost to the Vancouver Whitecaps last night. Also, a win against LA would see the Timbers leapfrog, if only for a few days, Chivas USA in the standings.
Finally, as I pointed out a few days ago, there is no excuse for why the Timbers can't earn three points today. LA is a struggling team. They're not the powerhouse side they were last year. Honestly, there really isn't a better side for the Timbers to earn three points against in the Western Conference.
Assessing Our Team
It's been a turbulent three weeks since the Timbers' last game. No doubt about it, the make up of the squad tonight will look a bit different than what we're used to. Additionally, with "The Loss That Shall Not Be Named" occurring just a couple weeks ago, it'll be interesting if we see a goal starved Timbers looking to strike early.
On that note, the big news tonight will be the recent addition of Danny Mwanga and what that means for the attacking prospects of the team. According to Will's recent training reports, John Spencer has said that we'll see him play, though his fitness levels aren't currently at the level of a 90-minute session. I expect we'll see him start tonight, and be subbed out at the half or 60th minute mark with Mike Fucito coming on for the latter half. I like this idea a lot actually because Fucito seems to be one of those strikers who is just going to run the defenders ragged in the final minutes of the game.
Additionally, with Mwanga starting up top with Kris Boyd, my hope is that we'll see Darlington Nagbe slotted in that CAM position. Some people are frustrated with him, but I'm not quite ready to give him up as a loss and I believe, given the time, he could make for one of the best CAMs in MLS one day. My hope is on that day he'll still be with the Timbers.
Looking to the defensive back line, expect some changes. First, Eric Brunner is still out with a concussion and currently has not timeline for when he'll return. As such we'll probably see Futty Danso paired up with Hanyer Mosquera, though he was absent from training so maybe David Horst? Also Steven Smith is still away in Scotland getting married so I expect we'll see Mike Chabala taking back the reigns of the left back position.
Here's my predicted line up:
Assessing the Enemy
What's there to assess about LA right now? There in shambles. A team with a budget almost three times the size of the Timbers and 4 times some of the top teams in the league is currently the bottom dweller of the Western Conference. Why? I'm not sure I can answer that...
That said, I do know a few bits about the current squad we'll see tonight.
First, we already know they'll be out three key players: Edson Buddle, Robbie Keane, and Omar Gonzalez. Both Buddle and Gonzalez are out due to injuries; the latter shouldn't be a huge surprise given that he's been out for months now. Keane is out due to the Euro 2012 tournament. Even though Ireland is ruled out officially from continuing on in Euro 2012, they still have another match tomorrow so Keane will most certainly be sticking around.
Aside from that, the Timbers will just need to focus on closing down Landon Donovan and David Beckham. They've effectively done it before, last year at Jeld-Wen, but they've been equally ineffective in the two away games they've had so far against LA. Really it all depends on what kind of mentality each team comes out with today.
It's been a rough break for Timbers fans. After "The Loss That Shall Not Be Named" happened, it turned into quite a slog of a break. That's why it's very important that the Timbers turn things around today. A win against the LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center would be a huge morale booster to the Timbers who have struggled with scoring, winning and performing on the road. They need this. We need this.
Get it done guys.
Timbers Starting XI
Jack Jewsbury, Hanyer Mosquera, David Horst, Mike Chabala
Kalif Alhassan, Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Franck Songo'o
Danny Mwanga, Kris Boyd
LA Galaxy Starting XI
Chad Barrett, Landon Donovan