"We are green, we are white!"
Finally, after almost six months we get to actually experience a Portland Timbers game again. Sure, it's not at
PGE Jeld Wen Field, but it's the next best thing we've got at the moment. After years of culmination, we get to show the league why we are Soccer City, USA, albeit in a smaller capacity.
Anyway, don't let my enthusiasm for tonight's game lure you into thinking that tonight will be an easy match up. We still have a challenge waiting for us and, against another team starting out poorly this season, both teams may be looking to get a bit more field time with their starting 11. This means we should be looking at this game as a normal league game more so than a minor tournament play-in game.
Also, this game may very well be important to both teams. As we get further on in the tournament this could be our singular measure of success for the season unless our regular season play improves.
Assessing Our Team
As I already mentioned previously, today's game is expected to be a "first team" affair for both teams as each is coming off two defeats in the first two weeks of regular season play. This means that our own management office and head coach John Spencer are probably looking to further build up quality team work and familiarity on the field as opposed to letting the guys rest.So, with that in mind, here's who I expect to start in tonight's match:
Jake Gleeson; Rodney Wallace, Eric Brunner, Kevin Goldthwaite, Steve Purdy; Jeremy Hall, Jack Jewsbury, Peter Lowry, Ryan Pore; Kenny Cooper, Jorge Perlaza
Freddie Braun might come in for Steve Purdy, I'm still not 100% clear on if he's out for international duty or not. Also of note is that midfielder Sal Zizzo will not be playing, despite his return to the team on Saturday, it has been reported that he re-injured his shoulder and the club will sit him out of games until he is fully healed.
I would like for Adam Moffat to also get some time on the field, but John Spencer seems to prefer Peter Lowry instead so I don't expect much change there. My continued grief is that Kevin Goldthwaite remains at center back when he's very obviously struggled for two games now. I would prefer we give the starting sport to David Horst who I felt played much better in our home opener against the Colorado Rapids than Kevin Goldthwaite.
Once again, I don't expect any changes up top. Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza need as many meaningful minutes as possible solidifying their partnership.
Assessing the Enemy
Chivas USA has just as much to play for as we do today. Luckily for us, and unfortunate for them, we are playing on our home turf for the first time since last September. Hopefully this has a positive affect on our team.
The Goats, as they're affectionately termed by their fans, will more than likely be playing their own starting 11 as we are. While Chivas USA certainly isn't new to the league, they went through a rough transition period during the off season this past year and have gone through three head coaches in the span of 18 months. This leaves plenty of uncertainty on and off the field for the team. With this in mind I expect their starting line up to mirror what they put out on Saturday:
Zach Thornton; Heath Pearce, Ben Zemanski, Jimmy Conrad, Ante Jazic; Michael Lahoud, Nick LaBrocca, Blair Gavin, Justin Braun; Victor Estupinan, Marcos Mondaini
The big name that stands out here is goalkeeper Zach Thornton who has lead their goalkeeping for a few years now. While he had an unremarkable season last year that is more to blame on Chivas USA's backline than his actual skill. In 2009 he was considered one of the best in the league. Also of note is Justin Braun who has also played with Chivas USA for a while. I expect Braun will be leading the midfield and attempting to get as many crosses into the box as possible when he's not outright attempting to make shots.
Finally, Chivas USA has a secret weapon of sorts on the bench in youngster Tristan Bowen. Bowen came out last year for the Los Angeles Galaxy when both Edson buddle and Landon Donovan were away at the 2010 World Cup. He's fast and has a taste for the net. While he still has some maturing to do on the field, he's dangerous enough to score scores ably.
I expect tonight's game to be one of a re-surging Portland Timbers side that is looking to show the league and other teams that, while we've stumbled in our first two games, we're going to be damn difficult to beat at home. Also don't be surprised if John Spencer attempts to use tonight's game to throw in some different formations to see if something new works better competitively which could be a slightly altered starting line up as well.
Finally, while I will rarely make outright game predictions, I'm going to call this one for the Timbers. I have a feeling we want it more and our team is desperate for that first win and first legitimate goal.
I'll see you guys at 7:00 PM.