Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquakes Match Preview; Return to Buck Shaw

USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Timbers fly down to San Jose for the last time of the year to take on Western Conference rivals the San Jose Earthquakes.

So far this season the Portland Timbers have managed to earn four out of a possible six points from the San Jose Earthquakes. That's an impressive record so far considering one of the games was at home (three points) and the other in California (one point). Tomorrow night, however, the Timbers must play the Earthquakes away from home, once again, and this time, I'm not sure if a single point is going to enough to keep fans back in Oregon happy.

Here's the breakdown:

Portland Timbers

The big news for the Timbers heading into tomorrow's game is the return of Rodney Wallace. With his most recent run with the Costa Rican national team in the CONCACAF Gold Cup over, the left winger should be back to providing service and general hustle from that left side, something he's excelled at this year. We saw him most recently in the match against Norwich City FC where was causing all sorts of problems in the first half. Frankly, it was a delight to see once again.

Another note of interest for Timbers fans will certainly be Diego Chara's continued condition. The midfielder did not play in the Norwich game at all and, according to Will's most recent training report, is currently being considered on a "day-to-day" basis as the team gets geared up for the match against San Jose. Something tells me, however, that we could see Chara miss the match altogether.

While Chara's absence would be bad for the Timbers at large, we're lucky enough to have depth in a player like Ben Zemanski who is almost assuredly going to start in his absence tomorrow. While perhaps not as favored as Chara, Zemanski can certainly fill a similar role. Against Norwich we saw him play just as much of an instigator as Chara, though perhaps not with the same refinement. Still, expect Zemanski to fill that role if Chara is indeed held out.

One last bit of news focuses on Frederic Piquionne. According to Will's training report, the French forward did not partake in training on Tuesday as he was dealing with "personal business." At last word he was expected to return to the Timbers later this week. Whether he has or hasn't, however, isn't really known. Still, I expect we'll see him tomorrow night.

Aside from that, expect the usual suspects out on the field. Here's my predicted starting lineup:

Donovan Ricketts; Jack Jewsbury, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Pa Modou Kah, Michael Harrington; Will Johnson, Diego Valeri, Ben Zemanski; Darlington Nagbe, Frederic Piquionne, Rodney Wallace

San Jose Earthquakes

The Earthquakes' slump season seems to continue in earnest as the team struggles to cope with returning to their 2012 form. With a 2-3-0 (W-L-D) record over the last five games, this year's Earthquakes team is certainly not the world beaters everybody was predicting them to be after a stellar 2012 season highlighted by late 2nd half and stoppage time heroics.

In addition to their weak run of form this season, however, the Earthquakes are currently missing two very important players due to national team obligations with the U.S. in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. I am, of course, talking about Chris Wondolowski and Clarence Goodson.

The absence of Wondolowksi should be pretty obvious to most MLS fans by now. While he only has five goals and three assists for the season so far, he's still an incredibly important player for the Earthquakes. His being away on national team duty will only come as a boon for the Timbers tomorrow.

The other player is a bit harder to peg because, despite being a part of the Earthquakes roster, he hasn't actually played a game with them yet. Goodson is best known for being a solid national team defender, particularly in the Gold Cup where he's helped get the Nats to the finals. While we don't know how he'll perform with his new MLS club, not having him available should be a relief to the current Timbers forwards.

Of course, there will be one more key player missing for San Jose tomorrow night in Alan Gordon, the club's runner up goal scorer this season. The former Timbers-man will be serving a mandatory one game suspension for yellow card accumulation. HIs absence means we could see somebody like Adam Jahn starting or perhaps Steven Lenhart playing up top by himself.

Speaking of Lenhart, while I'm not sure what his status is, he's currently listed as "QUESTIONABLE" on MLS's injury list. My guess, however, is that we'll see him start. With so many missing from tomorrow's team, barring it being a "highly questionable" scenario he's too important to leave on the bench.

Overall, it would appear that the Earthquakes are going to be forced to play a depleted squad tomorrow night. Something that should work out well for the Timbers.

Final Thoughts

With San Jose being relatively depleted this could be an opportunity for the Timbers to make some headway in the standings. It's a tight race in the Western Conference right now and it's not inconceivable to think that a dry run now could spell disaster for the Timbers. That said, I would caution the Timbers from being too bold heading into tomorrow's game. Sometimes, when the big names are missing, a team can really gel and expose stronger teams who perhaps weren't expecting such a result. It would be a shame for this to happen to the Timbers.

Match Information

Watch it on: ROOT SPORTS

Kick off: 7:30 pm at Buck Shaw Stadium, San Jose.

Portland Timbers: 34 points in the Western Conference.

San Jose Earthquakes: 24 points in the Western Conference.

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