In tonight's match the Portland Timbers get back into the swing of things after their bye week by facing off against the 5th place finishers in Mexico's Liga MX, Monarcas Morelia. The match is the first edition of the "Copa Verde", an annual match up between the Timbers and a first division Mexican side that will help to raise funds for Mexican Consulate of Portland's IME Becas program and scholarships.
Here's the breakdown of the two teams:
This friendly comes at an awful time for the Timbers. Thanks to the six players currently out due to injuries and another three on international duty for the Gold Cup, not to mention the fact that Alvas Powell is not yet available for the team, the Timbers are a heavily depleted side, with no choice but to give some minutes to players who will be relied upon this Sunday for their league match against the Columbus Crew.
Timbers fans can, with one or two exceptions, expect to see a reserve heavy line-up get a run out against Morelia.
With Michael Harrington still a question mark after yesterday's practice, the Timbers' back line has some questions to be answered on the outside. As it stands the Sal Zizzo as an outside back transformation will continue, but the identity of tonight's left back is still a mystery.
With the Timbers reserves not having played since their June 1st game against VSI Tampa Bay, the team could show some rust today, despite their unbeaten run in league play. It will take disciplined and precise play to take down Morelia, something that the reserves have shown at times but have had less luck showing consistently than the Timbers' regular starters.
In the 2013 Clausura Monarcas finished in fourth place overall, a feat that they have become accustomed to after finishing in the top half of the Liga MX in each of the last four years. Morelia will be looking for big contributions this season from two key players: on the front line Monarcas will rely on the powers of striker Héctor Mancilla, a two time golden boot winner in Liga MX, while at the back they count on their team captain Frederico "El Jefe" Vilar, an Argentine keeper who is regularly in the conversation for the keeper of the year and who looks as though he might be a time traveler from the late 1970's.
Monarcas are only four weeks into their preseason, a fact that was readily apparent in the team's practice at Jeld-Wen Field last night as the team held a low impact training session that was spread out over two hours and ended in a short field twelve on twelve match with the team's keepers playing striker and strikers in net.
Morelia defender Juan Carlos Arellano discussed the challenges inherent in playing a team who are in mid-season form.
"We have to be really attentive, really careful in the back because they are really strong and fast... There is a lot of challenges. They have really advanced games and we don't. This is going to be just our second game and we are getting along to know our game."
Newly acquired midfielder Hibert Ruiz also gave his thoughts on what Monarcas will need to do tonight.
"You have to [have] the right vision of the field because the passing [has to be accurate] all the time and you have to be dynamic all the time. The team trusts you so you have to learn to be the support of the team."
Generally a team that likes to play an attacking style, Morelia showed off some good foot skills at practice yesterday, as well as some slick close-quarters dribbling and passing in the style that MLS clubs are used to seeing from their Mexican opponents in every competition.
Although the relaxed nature of the Monarcas training session yesterday made it hard to determine a starting line-up, it looked like they will run out a line-up consisting primarily of returning starters and new arrivals.
Although it will be difficult being matched up against a talented side like Monarcas Morelia, the Timbers have the skill and stamina to keep the Copa Verde trophy in Portland. Tonight's match has all the makings of a high scoring affair with Morelia boasting several potent scoring options, while the Timbers' youngsters will have an opportunity to stretch their legs as the match opens up.