The Portland Timbers will challenge the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place this Saturday in the hopes of retaining the Cascadia Cup trophy. The good news is that the Timbers have yet to lose at BC Place. In fact, in previous years there it was pretty much the only place the Timbers could win on the road (Chicago as well in 2011). The bad news is that the Timbers still face a huge hill to climb to retain the trophy. If they draw or win on Saturday it would do a lot of good toward leveling the playing field for the remainder of the season, especially since they drew the Sounders away from home a few weeks ago.
Here's the breakdown:
The Portland Timbers are coming off an impressive and dominating win over Southern California side Chivas USA. In it they kept Chivas' attack relatively quiet all night while scoring three goals of their own. Regardless of whether or not it was a home game, that's a good confidence boost to have heading into a road game against a Cascadian rival.
The big news heading into tomorrow night's match, however, is whether Pa Modou Kah will start. The Timbers have, arguably, been a bit shaky in the back since Mikael Silvestre went out with a torn ACL. Andrew Jean-Baptiste, in particular, has been a little up and down, though that's to be expected given his age. Kah brings a new element of stability and veteran leadership. However, he's also brand new to the team. There's simply no way he's gelled with the team already in that short time.
Looking to the rest of the team, I think it's pretty clear that Caleb Porter will use his go to guys. The only question that remains is whether Frederic Piquionne or Ryan Johnson will start. Both seem hungry for a goal, either another one in Ryan's case, or his first for Piquionne. I can really see Porter starting either one in the hopes that they'll be hungry enough and fiery enough in a rivalry game to slot one or two into the back of the net.
Here's my predicted starting lineup:
If you have yet to do so, I strongly recommend checking out my preview interview with the guys from 86 Forever. In it Jonathan reveals a lot about this current Whitecaps' team.
The Whitecaps, for lack of a better description, are incredibly difficult to figure out right now. On the one hand, they seem to play without much forward momentum. Chance after chance failing to hit the back of the net, or anywhere near it. On the other hand, they can come out and win 3-1 against the likes of the 2012 MLS Cup Champions, the LA Galaxy. Believe it or not this actually puts the Timbers at a disadvantage, especially as Martin Rennie continues to tweak and play with his squad.
Obviously, however, the big man to watch out for his Nigel Reo-Coker. Some of you might recognize that name as the Timbers actually held his rights during the preseason, for some reason. Regardless, he's seen as a huge leader in the midfield and is probably one of the league's better holding midielders at the moment. It will be very interesting to see how Diego Chara and Reo-Coker match up there. Don't expect it to be pretty.
Additionally, keep an eye on Darren Mattocks up top. The Whitecaps' 2012 first round SuperDraft pick is still just as fiery as always and will be sure to get under the skin of the Timbers players and fans alike.
Here's Vancouver predicted starting lineup:
Three points would bring the Timbers not only on even footing for the rest of the Cascadia Cup tournament, but would also continue to give the Timbers breathing room in that second place position. While they won't be able to overtake FC Dallas anytime soon, given they're 6 points behind the league leaders, the LA Galaxy are starting to creep up on them and Real Salt Lake aren't much farther behind. As much as we might like to think the Timbers are beginning to run away with that 2nd place position, it's actually still very close.