Welcome to our new series for each and every Portland Timbers match this season. Each game day I'll create this match day thread as an area where you can discuss, and talk about the upcoming game and Timbers prior and during the game. I'll also be using these threads to give a sort of mini-preview on the match, like an injury report and a break down of the opposing team.
Of course, today's match is a bit historic in the fact that it's really our first MLS game ever. Sure we've been having friendlies before this, but all of those just seem so unimportant and thus not as exciting as a true meaningful game. Today's match is made even more exciting by the fact that we are facing off against the Colorado Rapids, the 2010 MLS Cup championships. While that essentially only means the team won an 8-club tournament series, it still gives a lot of confidence to the team and will be making our team's job that much more difficult.
Assessing Our Team
As we head into our first MLS match, it's important to take note of our team and who might actually be playing today. Now, I don't have a solid/updated injury report with me, but if everything goes wrong, we could be without Sal Zizzo or Troy Perkins today putting us at a pretty severe disadvantage in both the midfield and in the goal. Adin Brown is, of course, a solid keeper, but when you're playing your first ever MLS game you want the very best back there and it's unfortunate we might not have that today.
Aside from that, we still have a strong forward and center midfield, in my opinion that will be looking to give Colorado problems at every turn, particularly with our captain, Jack Jewsbury. Here's my projected starting line up (contingent on injuries of course):
Adin Brown; Steve Purdy, Eric Brunner, Kevin Goldthwaite, Rodney Wallace; Ryan Pore, Jack Jewsbury, Peter Lowry, Jeremy Hall; Kenny Cooper, Jorge Perlaza
Adin Brown and Ryan Pore are, obviously, contingent on the health of Troy Perkins and Sal Zizzo.
Assessing the Enemy
To be perfectly honest, there's not another forward pair in all of MLS that worries me more than the Colorado Rapids. Omar Cummings and Conor Casey are phenomenal strikers by themselves, but when paired together they have an incredible partnership. It's far easier when one team has a dominant striker, like the Seattle Sounders, or Los Angeles Galaxy, where you can shut that single person down and not have to worry too much about the other. Not so with Colorado. Both are equally dangerous, and both will be giving our back line problems all night.
Moving back in towards the midfield, the big man here is Jeff Larentowicz. This is a pivotal player on the Colorado Rapids team and he has been directly responsible for creating most of the chances Omar Cummings and Conor Casey have seen over the years. Paired up next to Pablo Mastroeni, Jeff Larentowicz is a fantastic midfielder who will be controlling the midfield tonight.
Back to the defense, there is, luckily, nothing here that is worrying me too much. Colorado has never been an overtly defensive side and I don't suspect much has changed. The big factor here is the keeper Matt Pickens who was the fifth best keeper in 2010. He won't be allowing in any easy goals and will be huge in the box against Cooper and Perlaza tonight.
I won't ever be giving an exact score prediction as I just don't believe, in soccer, that will ever be accurate unless through sheer luck. For the game itself, however, I'm expecting a chippy game one that will be physical and very demanding on each of the teams' players as neither will want to cede the first game of the season. At this point, were we to come out with a draw, I'd certainly be happy. The Colorado Rapids will be playing to win with the intent to hold onto their 2010 trophy from last year. They have everything going for them right now and it's going to show in tonight's game. If the Timbers can keep their ego in check and give as good as they get tonight, we could scrape through this very tough first game.