Apologies for the slight delay in today's match post. I had originally planned on getting this post live by 1:00 PM, but got sidetracked with... ... videogames. Anyway, exciting day as we head into our third MLS regular season match coming off a 2 - 0 victory in U.S. Open Cup play against Chivas USA.
If you read my preview looking at the New England Revolution you should know by know that we shouldn't at all expect this to be an easy game. While their crowd leaves much to be desired, often creating a rather limp atmosphere, they've held up remarkably well so far this season against a resurging D.C. United side and the 2010 Supporters Shield winners, the Los Angeles Galaxy. For a team like ours, that's still learning how to "walk," they'll still be coming in with the better confidence.
Finally, one last thing of note, because of Chivas USA's draw against Toronto FC this morning, should we lose at New England we'll be the singular team in the Western Conference without a single point. I don't relish experiencing that...
Assessing Our Team
Coming off our victory at Merlo Field this past Tuesday, I'm actually feeling rather good about our chances today. While it will remain a hard fought battle our team secured an important win midweek, a win that should help boost our confidence.
I've said it before, prior to Tuesday our team hadn't scored a real goal in the regular season. Yes, Kenny Cooper got the free kick goal against the Colorado Rapids, but nothing while the game is actually in motion. Often times that can create a mental barrier for teams and strikers. While neither Jorge Perlaza, nor Kenny Cooper have scored yet, the team has via captain Jack Jewsbury and defender Eric Brunner. Hopefully this will alleviate the pressure on our strikers a bit and allow them to get into a more natural pace.
Here's who I expect to start in today's match up:
Jake Gleeson; Rodney Wallace, Eric Brunner, Kevin Goldthwaite, Steve Purdy; Jeremy Hall, Jack Jewsbury, Peter Lowry, Ryan Pore; Kenny Cooper, Jorge Perlaza
I have a feeling Darlington Nagbe will play today, but not as a starter. My guess is that John Spencer will want to ease him back into the game instead of throwing 90 minutes at him.
I do not expect Sal Zizzo to come it at all today. While he hasn't been ruled out entirely, the FO has gone on record as wanting to allow him to fully heal this time before sending him back out.
Assessing the Enemy
I broke down the New England Revolution yesterday. Fellow SB Nation comrade, Steve Stoehr (who writes for The Bent Musket) informed me that the team will more than likely be going in with a 4-5-1 formation with this as their probable starting line up:
Matt Reis; Kevin Alston, Ryan Cochrane (Portland local), AJ Soares, Didier Domi; Stephan McCarthy, Pat Phelan, Sainey Nyassi, Shalrie Joseph, Chris Tierney; Zack Schilawski
From the onset, it's going to be pretty clear that New England will control the midfield with captain Shalrie Joseph creating all kinds of problems for our team.
The good news here is that I'm not too worried about Zack Schilawski. While he has a goal already notched for this season, he only has 2 shots on goal according to his 2011 stats. If our defenders can lock him down fast enough we should be able to escape without much damage being done, at least not from their striker.
Finally, as Steve pointed out the other day, it'll be important for the Portland Timbers to keep their eye on new left back Didier Domi. This is a new player for the Revolution and one that our New England insider was quick to point out for his pace.
This is going to be a hard fought battle. While our team is coming off a great victory on Tuesday, this is a whole new "ball game," so to say. I have no doubt that New England will dominate the midfield. However, if we can battle against New England's relatively weak forward power and we get them on the counter I believe we can come away with a solid victory, away from home. It won't be easy, but confidence has achieved crazier things in this sport and our team just might be brimming with it today.
Game starts at 4:30PM on Fox 12.