HARRISON, NJ - AUGUST 19: Darlington Nagbe #6 of the Portland Timbers reacts after scoring a goal against the New York Red Bulls during the first half in a Major League Soccer game on August 19, 2012 at Red Bull Arena. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Well here is the last bastion of hope for any hardware this season and hopefully Portland can play the role of spoiler for the rest of the season. For those of you who don't remember the standings for the Cascadia Cup head here. The question I have been thinking about is can Portland do something it hasn't done since July 3rd? Which of course is the last time Portland has won a game. With that in mind let's take a look at what Portland needs to do in order to get the win.
Portland will win if: I will keep this short and sweet: IF they can focus for a full 90.
Portland will lose if: They lose focus for 1 single second and allow a soft goal. If you go back and look at the goals scored against Portland the last 7 games, 18 goals against mind you, you could probably count maybe 3 goals which you could not call "Soft". Which means Portland's defense as a whole, and I am looking at all of the team not just the defenders, has suffered from a lot of ball watching and brain farts.
For Portland to win they need to play defense as a team and take their individual job seriously.
Portland will win if: They can reproduce the offense output from the last two games and then help defensively. Last year, if I remember correctly, Portland's, outside of Captain Jack Jewsbury, midfielders accounted for 5 or 6 goals and about the same number of assists. The last two games we have seen Sal Zizzo himself score once and notch two assists with Nagbe adding two goals himself. This needs to continue and they need to find the replacement in the 4-3-3 for Diego Chara. What would probably be the best idea would be to bring on Eric Alexander for Chara as he fits Chara's role better than any other midfielder.
Portland will lose if: Dane Richards is allowed to terrorize the already weak back line. Richards as you know has been a thorn in Portland's side almost every time they played the Energy Drinks. With the trade to Vancouver Whitecaps Portland now will see him 2 more times then they would if he would not have migrated West. For the defense to shore up the midfielders will also have to defend and be the first line of defense and the ones who stay with the late runners.
There have been too many times the outside backs for the opposition make a late run after the attack has been established and Portland's wings have been caught ball watching. Which then pulls the outside backs out of position and the domino effect continues with the center backs. Which makes the Center backs look like the culprit because they are caught trying to cover for the outside backs, who had to cover for the wing(s) not following the runner.
Portland will win if: Someone can finish a 1v1, last match Portland created more but finished less than their opponents and that needs to be reversed. The biggest question the coaching staff has to answer is who do they put out there as the lone striker in the middle of the pitch.
The best case scenario would be a pairing of both Dike, who can run down the ball and give the defenders a first hand experience of what it is like to be "Diked" and Boyd. Now this will only happen if Portland abandons the 4-3-3 because it would mean Boyd or Dike would have to play one of the outside forwards and would mean they would have some defensive assignments. So it is either Boyd or Dike who gets the start and if Portland's midfielders hit the through balls they were hitting against New York I would give the nod to Boyd.
Portland will lose if: The lone striker or the pairing up top becomes too predictable and does not apply some pressure on the outside backs. Defense starts from the forwards, yet they don't have to apply a lot of pressure they just need to make it uncomfortable for a defender to play the ball out of the back and not give them as much time as they want to hit the pass.
Prediction: I am going to go with Andy on this one, 3-2 Portland wins.