The Portland Timbers didn't have the best experience against Chivas USA last season. Despite Chivas also struggling throughout, they still managed to take all 9 points from the Timbers. To be frank, it was embarrassing. But this is a new year, a new season and, obviously, a new team. We've seen in previous games where the Timbers are obviously not the same team as they once were. Chivas USA, for their part however, aren't the same team either.
Here's the breakdown:
The Timbers are coming off an unfortunate draw against FC Dallas away. I say unfortunate because the penalty that allowed Dallas to equalize could have easily been avoided. But that's the game of soccer, right?
Looking ahead to Sunday's match there's not much in the way of news with regards to the lineup. Futty Danso and Andrew Jean-Baptiste are expected to man the central defensive position once again. Pa Modou Kah isn't expected to arrive in Portland until this upcoming week and, even if he was here, I'm not sure if he would be considered match fit. Futty, for his part, had a good game against Dallas. AJB, however, needs to up his game and not fall for any PK traps again.
Everything else looks pretty standard. Expect the usuals in the usual positions. Rodney Wallace will undoubtedly be back in the starting line up on the left winger position. It's still a toss up between Frederic Piquionne and Ryan Johnson as far as I'm concerned for that center forward position. My gut tell me Ryan Johnson will be back in the starting lineup.
Here's my predicted starting lineup:
Chivas is an interesting team this year, to say the least. If you have yet to do so, I strongly recommend reading my preview interview with Alicia of The Goat Parade. She reveals much about Chivas and how they're working this season so far.
Chivas USA, like the Timbers, is a renewed club and team. In fact, I would say they were more radically altered than even the Timbers through the off season. From new owners, new front office staff, new head coach, and a bunch of new players, they almost seem like they're a brand new expansion team. That hasn't stopped them from being a solidly mid-table team though so far this season.
According to Alicia, Chivas typically employs an odd 3-5-2 formation that emphasizes high pressure and counter attacking. It's an interesting formation, to be sure, but one that also seems open to the type of high possession game the Timbers play these days. Under this formation, Chivas does not necessarily value high possession.
As for players to watch out for, that's a little difficult. Aside from keeper Dan Kennedy, this squad is young and doesn't have many standout names. Mostly because, well, Chivas underspend the salary cap by about $800,000, the most by any team this season. Still, Alicia notes a few players who should be watched out: Eric Avila and Oswaldo Minda in particular.
Two final good news points:
Second, Dan Kennedy, Chivas' star keeper, is serving a red card suspension this week and won't be in net. Instead we'll see back up keeper Patrick McLain. I don't know how good McLain is, but he can't be as good as Kennedy.
At the start of the FC Dallas preview stuff I said that the Timbers would do well to earn four points from this week. Having secured the necessary draw against FC Dallas, they're well on their way at this point. Three points tomorrow afternoon would see the team maintain it's third place Western Conference position, possibly jumping back up to second.
Additionally, expect the Timbers to be hungry for a solid win. Their last 3 points came a couple weeks ago against Sporting KC. They're itching for a win.