Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy Match Preview; Return of the Stars

USA TODAY Sports

The LA Galaxy fly into Portland for their first of two matches at Jeld-Wen Field.

Earlier this year, the Portland Timbers flew down to the StubHub Center (formerly Home Depot Center) to take on the LA Galaxy. In that game the Timbers managed to earn a well deserved road point from the former MLS champions leaving them with two home game opportunities to win three very important points. The first of those games starts this Saturday.

Here's the breakdown:

Portland Timbers

The Portland Timbers are coming off a disappointing 1-nil loss to the Columbus Crew last weekend in a game the effectively ended their undefeated streak since the second week of this season. The good news is that the constant pressure for the team to win or draw has let up a bit. I know we often think of pressure as a good thing, but sometimes too much can ease the tension. Now that the guys are starting over with a fresh slate, I'm hoping they'll be a little more collected.

The big news, of course, coming out of last week's game is Pa Modou Kah's red card. His ejection in the 13th minute means that the Timbers will not be able to use him against LA. That said, based on his play against Columbus, maybe that's a good thing. Instead we'll no doubt see Futty Danso suit up alongside Andrew Jean-Baptiste. Danso, for his part, came into the Crew game and really helped to settle everything down. I'm becoming more impressed with him with each game. Rauwshan McKenzie will no doubt be on the bench.

The other bit of news continues to surround Ben Zemanski's health. Our own William Conwell reported yesterday that Zemanski has been held out from practice this week, but is expected to be back today. Whether that means he is fit for Saturday, however, remains to be seen. He is not currently listed on any injury list.

Aside from that there's not much new to this side that we didn't know from last week. Rodney Wallace, Will Johnson and Frederic Piquionne will all continue to be out for their respective Gold Cup games. As such, the Timbers will be a bit depleted against the likes of a strong LA Galaxy side.

Here's my predicted starting lineup:

Donovan Ricketts; Jack Jewsbury, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Futty Danso, Michael Harrington; Ben Zemanski, Diego Valeri, Diego Chara; Kalif Alhassan, Ryan Johnson, Darlington Nagbe

LA Galaxy

The Los Angeles Galaxy are coming off two solid wins in a row against the likes of the Columbus Crew and FC Dallas. However, both of those games were home games for them. If you're not counting their 1-nil "away" win against Chivas USA then they haven't won a true road game since they played the Philadelphia Union back in May.

Of course, the big news for LA is the loss of their captain: Landon Donovan. Donovan might have had a slow start to this season -- he was on a hiatus of sorts -- he has slowly regained the momentum of his previous years. As we all know, his most recent Gold Cup form has been spectacular. The loss of Donovan for LA will surely be a blessing for Timbers fans.

That said, this LA squad should be in full force on Saturday. They're currently listed with no injuries or suspensions. That means the Timbers will have to face the likes of Robbie Keane, Junihno, Marcelo Sarvas, Pablo Mastroeni, and Omar Gonzalez. None of those players should be taken lightly and the Timbers' defense and forwards will each have their own respective mountains to climb.

Unfortunately, I have no predicted lineup for LA this week.

Final Thoughts

Last week's loss allowed Real Salt Lake to further distance themselves in the race for the Supporters Shield. Perhaps worse, though, is that the Timbers are no longer secure in their Western Conference position. LA Galaxy's two wins allowed them to leapfrog the Timbers in the standings to take 3rd place -- albeit just barely -- and the Vancouver Whitecaps appear to not be slowing down at all. If the Timbers are serious about maintaining their play off position, they'll need to win against LA on Saturday, otherwise a win by LA, Vancouver and the Colorado Rapids could see the Timbers in a perilous position they haven't known for a long time.

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