It's been a long time coming, but, starting tomorrow, we'll have regular Portland Timbers matches to watch until November. It's a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling isn't it? While a preseason tournament certainly isn't the same as the regular season, you can bet tomorrow's match will be 100% about Caleb Porter putting the final touches on his squad and what better team to attempt that against the 2012's Supporters Shield winners: the San Jose Earthquakes.
With that said, we're also in preseason mode here on Stumptown Footy, so we'll be using these games as an opportunity to regain our previewing, match threading, post gaming recapping muscles. Please bear with us.
The Portland Timbers are coming off a fairly successful preseason camp in Arizona with 3 wins and a single loss against Sporting Kansas City. Obviously there's a lot that goes into those results that won't necessarily be indicative of regular season form, but it's a decent chance to see who the starters will likely be.
The big question will be who starts up top now that Bright Dike is out for a few months. Looking from the onset I would say that the pecking order goes something like this:
Darlington Nagbe could also be used as a forward, but I don't think we'll see him in that position tomorrow.
My guess is that the Timbers will field a 4-2-3-1 formation as we saw in Arizona with Ryan Johnson leading the attack. He might not be gelling with the team right now, but he certainly has seniority over the other players and far more MLS experience. While I would prefer Valencia, my gut tells me Porter wants to go with the safe bet for the opening match.
Additionally, given that the Earthquakes have a particularly dominating midfield, it will be important for the Timbers to attempt to increase their numbers there and maintain the passing, fluidic style that Porter prefers. Will Johnson, Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe will be an integral part of the midfield.
Finally, you have the defense. I don't expect much to change, aside from the fact that Mikael Silvestre is no longer with the team. Expect Andrew Jean-Baptiste to take the center position with Hanyer Mosquera and Ryan Miller and Michael Harrington to play on the wings.
San Jose Earthquakes
I don't have too much to say about the Earthquakes right away as I'm not terribly familiar with their squad anymore. They've had a fair amount of turn over during the off season as well as new players coming in, including former Portland Timbers forward Mike Fucito.
Of course, two key players still with the team are Chris Wondolowksi and Steven Lenhart. Expect them to start and expect Lenhart to drive the Timbers backline absolutely crazy with his antics.
Aside from that, there's not much more I can tell you about San Jose.
The preseason tournament is more about making the final push to getting match fit ready than anything else, but don't think they're entirely meaningless. The Portland Timbers will certainly want to win their own tournament as they did last year. Really it should be a good time had by all. There's nothing on the line, really, so just take it all in.
What are you looking for in tomorrow's game?