Portland Timbers @ Colorado Rapids Preview and Match Thread [6:00 PM]

The last time the Timbers played at the Dick, it didn't turn out so great. (Photo by Michael Martin/Getty Images)

Last Sunday the Portland Timbers faced a huge test against their northern rivals the Seattle Sounders and they came out on top. It wasn't a pretty game. It wasn't an overtly dominant performance by the Timbers, but they dragged out a 2-1 victory... and that's what really matters, especially against a rival such as Seattle. Tonight, when the Timbers take on the Colorado Rapids, it will hopefully be with a renewed sense of confidence.

Additionally, tonight's match is doubly important because it'll allow the Timbers the chance to level off with the Rapids if they win. With the Timbers currently at 16 points and the Rapids at 19 a win or a loss tonight has far more meaning than it otherwise would under normal circumstances. This is a chance for the Timbers to start truly battling for that 5th play off spot (along with the likes of the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA).

Let's check out each team:

Assessing Our Team

The big news heading into tonight's game will be the absence of Kalif Alhassan. We all saw him go out last week against Seattle with a hamstring injury and, according to Will's many training reports, we won't be seeing him tonight, even though he's only listed as DOUBTFUL on the injury report. Instead, expect perennial super substitute Sal Zizzo to take a starting role. Or at least that's my hope.

Additionally, Hanyer Mosquera remains suspended so don't count on him being out there. We won't be able to see him play for the Timbers again until next Saturday against Real Salt Lake. With Eric Brunner still out with a concussion, we're likely to see David Horst and Futty Danso take the center defender position once again. Not that I'm complaining, as they both performed admirably against Seattle last week. Let's hope they're able to maintain their composure.

Finally, up top, Danny Mwanga will likely return to his starting position. He came on late against Seattle due to a very minor injury, but appears to be back at full health. This likely means that Mike Fucito will, once again, go on the bench, and Mwanga will be paired up with Kris Boyd up top.

Oh and one small piece of bad news for you superstitious types. The Timbers are slated to wear their retro white third kits. I say "bad news" because their current record in those kits is pretty bad... even against the likes of 5th division team. Take that for what you will.

Predicted starting line up:

Troy Perkins; Jack Jewsbury, David Horst, Futty Danso, Steven Smith; Sal Zizzo, Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Franck Songo'o; Danny Mwanga, Kris Boyd

Assessing the Enemy

As usual, check out all our preview material heading up today's match to get a better insight on tonight's opponent:

All great stuff, I assure you.

Looking at tonight's Colorado Rapids team though, we can expect to see the usual threats coming by way of: Omar Cummings, Conor Casey, and Jeff Larentowicz. They're slated to be in the starting line up tonight, and we've all seen what they can do. So be on the look out for them.

The player who we don't know about, but has been playing very well for Colorado this season is MLS rookie Martin Rivero, a new player that Colorado brought on this season as a "true #10." I haven't seen him in action yet, but my fellow SB Nation blogger over at the Burgudy Wave is full of praise for him and, looking at the overall season stats, the kid is already placing in the top 5 in assists for the league. Keep an eye on this midfielder.

One last bit of news: Pablo Mastroeni, the team's leader and oft discussed driving force, is slated as being OUT on the injury list. So, at the very least, the Timbers won't have to worry about that threat. Though don't take it for a definitive sign of weakness.

Here's Colorado's predicted starting line up:

Matt Pickens; Hunter Freeman, Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne, Luis Zapata; Jeff Larentowicz, Jaime Castrillon, Martin Rivero; Tony Cascio, Omar Cummings, Conor Casey

Final Thoughts

Repeating their first MLS season, the Timbers still have yet to win on the road. They've drawn, yes, but the away win is an important aspect of moving up in this league. I'd also like to point out that their record at the Jelly isn't strong enough to purely support them either. So, yes, while a win tonight is important points wise, and for confidence building over all, it's also important because they need to earn some road points if they're even considering still making the play offs.

Tonight's match kicks off at 6:00 PM at Dick's Sorting Goods Park in Colorado. You can watch it live on KPDX.

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