Following hot on the heels of the team's 3-1 win on Tuesday, the Portland Timbers are set to face Sporting Kansas City for the second time this week as they face off again tonight. The Timbers may be lower in the standings currently, but a win here would be a big get for Portland, particularly as they have only won once at home this year in league play.
With Caleb Porter set to make some significant changes to the Timbers' lineup from the side that we saw on Tuesday, the extent to which the Timbers will rotate their squad is still unknown. Talking to the press at practice yesterday, Porter said that anywhere from three to seven players from Tuesday's game could see some action tonight.
Of those who started, the most likely candidates to remain in the Timbers' lineup have to be Will Johnson, Danny O'Rourke, and either Jack Jewsbury or Jorge Villafana. Johnson, despite a somewhat common sentiment that he is having a down season, remains a significant part of the Timbers' midfield engine, while the limited numbers of healthy and available defenders make the bulk of the Timbers' defenders likely to reprise their roles.
Where the team look extremely likely to make wholesale changes is in the attack. With Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri, and Rodney Wallace all completely rested after staying home rather than traveling for Tuesday's game, Porter can swap in a whole new attacking line that should be fresh and ready to take the game to SKC. Add in Fanendo Adi, who got some minutes as a substitute earlier in the week, and you have our offensive unit for the Timbers.
In Kansas City the Timbers sat back and picked their moments to counter attack. With this changed up lineup they will still be very effective if they should choose to handle the game that way again. However, as compared to the linups from Tuesday, this lineup will be more able to take a more proactive stance in the game and spend more time in control of the possession, something that could be very taxing for a worn down SKC side to deal with.
Porter refused to say if the team would look to take a more dominating stance at home, instead saying that his philosophy was not to do one specific thing, but to do whatever would give the team their best shot at winning.
Sporting Kansas City
Coming to town today, Kansas City will likely only see a few changes from the side that the Timbers faced on Tuesday. With Matt Besler and Graham Zusi still away at the World Cup and a rash of injuries still affecting the team, SKC will be very limited in the number of changes they can make to the roster.
There is one change that the Timbers can be sure SKC will be making: Antonio Dovale will be out for this match, having picked up a two game suspension for an off-camera dust-up with the Houston Dynamo's Alex Lopez back on June 6th before the start of the World Cup break. In his place, SKC could bring in creative attacking midfielder Claudio Bieler. After scoring ten goals for SKC last season, Bieler has seen limited time this year, scoring one goal in eight appearances, only three of them starts.
The other change that the Timbers will likely encounter is the return of fullback Igor Juliao. The Brazilian youngster, only 19 years old, brings a bit of pace to the Kansas City attack from his fullback spot and, without Zusi to provide on the right, could give SKC some of the width in their attack that they lacked at times on Tuesday. Juliao is still up in the air as he recovers from a knock suffered earlier this month, but his addition would give SKC a piece that could cover plenty of ground on their right flank.
For Peter Vermes' side the challenge today will be to figure out how Caleb Porter's team is going to attack the game. On Tuesday it seemed, initially, that they would be able to simply bull past the Timbers, but Portland's effective counter attacks soon put the lie to that. In today's match, Kansas City will need to be cautious without sacrificing their strengths; although even that may not be enough to thwart a better rested, well prepared Timbers side.
Watch it on: KPTV
Kick off: 8:00 PM PT at Providence Park
Portland Timbers: 4-4-8, 6th place in the Western Conference
Sporting Kansas City: 6-5-4, 3rd place in the Eastern Conference