Apologies for the delay in getting this live! There was some minor technical difficulties between myself and my SB Nation compatriot over at Burgundy Wave. Anyway, we were both able to get our respective questions/answers to each other just in time. The match thread itself will be posted right after this goes live.
Enjoy and super huge thanks to UZ from Burgundy Wave!
My Questions Answered
Omar Cummings is now confirmed to be out for Saturday's match. What does Colorado do to alleviate his missing presence and speed on the field? Who steps up?
Omar's spot of 'speedy forward' has been taken by Andre Akpan most recently. Akpan isn't really a known commodity in MLS right now since he was only drafted last season - in the second round as well! - and doesn't even have 10 appearances in the league yet, but after watching him in reserve games, practices and his few appearances I've already started calling him the 'next Omar Cummings'. He's fast, he's got a great first touch, he isn't afraid to take a shot - and a lack of shots has been part of the reason for the slumping offence recently - and he's already turning into a 1st team forward in MLS. If it tells you anything, I was far more worried when the Rapids lost Conor Casey than I was when they lost Omar Cummings, simply because we have such depth in the striker chart that can fill the Cummings role.
The Colorado Rapids opened their season with an impressive 3-1 win over the Timbers, but the team has seen some radical changes in both form and luck of late. What's the primary reason for this and how will it affect Saturday's game?
The Rapids have been simply shredded by injuries since after the Portland game, to the point where they haven't started even ten players from their first day starting XI since that first game. They've lost just about every striker - there was a back-up defensive midfielder playing striker at one point in the season for us! - and every midfielder in the mess, and playing under a different line-up and a different formation each game has been detrimental. The fact that they've managed to dig out all of these draws is actually a very good thing because with such a badly damaged line-up a lot more losses could have been possible. Fortunately for the Rapids, players have begun to come back, Brian Mullan will soon be back from his suspension and June has very few fixtures, which will give the Rapids a much needed rest before the tough July and August they'll face. The Timbers are fortunate in that they're catching the Rapids at the tail end of this unfortunate run for them and even though the Rapids showed well against Philly the confidence might not be back yet.
Who should the Portland Timbers and Timbers fans be keeping an eye on in Saturday's match? Why are they so dangerous?
I'm sure Timbers fans remember Jamie Smith's goal in that Rapids home opener, the screamer from 30 yards out. Well, Smith has been continuing his form during good periods of health the entire season so far, and he's coming back completely healthy for the Portland match today. His service is the best on the team and he is one of the big reasons that have had the Rapids scoring on set pieces recently. He also leads the team in goals with three right now, and his confidence is probably the best on the team so you'll probably see him shooting the ball from everywhere in the final third when he gets possession. If there was a prize for the player that Colorado missed most with injury, Jamie would certainly be a contender.
Projected starting line up?
Matt Pickens; Anthony Wallace, Drew Moor, Tyrone Marshall, Kosuke Kimura; Wells Thompson, Pablo Mastroeni, Jeff Larentowicz, Jamie Smith; Conor Casey, Andre Akpan
Questions I Answered
What different line-up changes or new faces will we be seeing in the Timbers line-up compared to the season opener?
Quite a few changes actually:
First, we have the starting keeper back, Troy Perkins, who has been playing really well for the team, aside from that unfortunate DC United game. In the game against Chivas USA he was really the only player I was impressed by on the field and actually made MLS team of the week for it.
Second, Kalif Alhassan is starting regularly where as on March 19th he wasn't. This is a very agile, squirmy player who, somehow, manages to slip in and out of players at will. He's still young, but I definitely think in a few years he could be one of the best wingers in MLS if he doesn't get sold to Europe.
Third, Diego Chara is a new player since April. He brings a creative element to the midfield that wasn't there at the beginning of the season. He's still coming into the squad though, so he has room to get better acquainted with the play style and the city as a whole.
Fourth, Darlington Nagbe has recovered from injuries and is expected to be back out there tonight. He was pulled from the line up back in March when he had to undergo hernia surgery. As the #2 pick he's expected to do quite well for himself in MLS.
Other changes have been made. By and large it's a different team that who Colorado played on March 19th.
The Timbers have been fantastic at home this year compared to the road. Is it all the Timbers Army giving home field advantage or do they just play in a different fashion while in Portland?
I definitely believe the Timbers Army has an effect on the team. There's a lot of energy in the crowd and the entire stadium almost pulsates with said energy. I have no doubt that the players on the field feel that little extra bit of energy because of them. That said, the Timbers obviously aren't unbeatable at home (thankyouverymuch DC United). As for style, it's essentially the same. Same formation, same tactics, same players. They just play better at home.
Seeing what you have this far into the season, what do you think would be an acceptable and satisfying finishing spot for the Timbers?
Hard to say to be honest. Had the Timbers done worse thus far I might have said "anything but last place!" However, now that we know the team can win, they're expected to. At this point I'd say anything less than entry into the play-offs would be a disappointment. There are no "expansion" excuses allowed here and head coach John Spencer has said as much when the beginning of the season kicked off. The Timbers are here to win from the first day, every day.
Starting line up?
Troy Perkins; Rodney Wallace, Mamadou "Futty" Danso; Eric Brunner, Jeremy Hall; Kalif Alhassan, Jack Jewsury (c), Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe; Kenny Cooper, Jorge Perlaza