Tomorrow's a big day for fans of soccer in Portland. Not only are the Portland Timbers heading to Dallas to seek their first road victory but also the United States is playing Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final. Both are happening at just about the same time though, so it's going to be a little tricky to keep track of both.
Anyway, as Portland look for its first road win ever, they'll be playing against a team that, only weeks before, were the able to defeat 3-2 here at home. That said, while the Portland Timbers have largely remained unchanged since that day, FC Dallas has, in fact, changed things up quite a bit especially with the absence of Colombian midfielder David Ferreira.
To help me break down these changes, Daniel Robertson of Big D Soccer stepped up to shed some light on Dallas' evolving team.
My Questions Answered
When last the Portland Timbers and FC Dallas met, Dallas went home sans any points. What's different now? Has the team gotten better, worse or are they pretty much the same as back in April?
Well the biggest difference I’ve seen is, if you remember in that game Dallas was down 3-0 in that game which finally prompted Schellas Hyndman to move Brek Shea into an attacking role rather than the ridiculous defensive experiment they had him in for the first few games of the season. The move paid immediate dividends as Brek nearly single-handedly earned a point for Dallas in that game. In the 11 games since the Portland loss, FCD has lost just once and they are a completely different team. Most of that is down to the defense which has shut out the opponent in five of their last seven home games. I’ll touch on a little more of the differences in the next question.
Without David Ferreira who leads the Dallas attack? Where is the creative force coming from?
Again, it’s mainly from Brek Shea. Dallas plays a system that almost looks like a 4-3-3 in attack where the midfield trio of Daniel Hernandez, Eric Alexander and Andrew Jacobson’s job is to win the ball and get it to Shea, Marvin Chavez and Fabian Castillo in attack. Shea has been a revelation at left attacking mid where he is playing the best soccer of his life. There will be a big change on Saturday against the Timbers, however, as Castillo has been called up to the Colombian U20 squad for the U20 World Cup and is gone to South America.
Brek Shea recently signed a new contract with the team. What is his primary role on the field. It seems like he can play in almost any position whenever the coach needs him to. Should we expect Shea to be a threat to the Timbers backline again as he was back in April?
Yeah, he’s been incredible in the last month. After starting the season in defense, he’s moved to what is now a purely attacking role. He plays a bit like Cristiano Ronaldo in that he generally sits out on the wings but cuts inside on a dime. Shea is the hottest player on FC Dallas right now and seems to be sending a message to Bob Bradley for not giving him a look in the Gold Cup.
Predicted starting line up?
The only real questions in the lineup for this game is at forward and outside back. You will see two of Zach Loyd, Jackson and Jair Benitez at outside backs while forward will likely be played by either Milton Rodriguez or Maykel Galindo
Questions I Answered
Portland has been incredibly difficult to beat at home while they haven’t won in six road games. What do you attribute that to and what does Portland need to do to turn things around on Saturday in Frisco?
I think it largely has to do with consistency as a whole and the momentum the team has leading into the game. As a new team, it's easy to get psyched for your home fans, especially when they're as rowdy and fanatical as the Timbers Army. I believe that lends a lot of energy to the Timbers at home. When they're away sometimes they play well (like against Seattle) and sometimes they don't. It's very hit and miss and largely just seems to stem from a lack of playing time together. Consistency will be key moving forward, especially as the play off push comes late Summer.
What is the overall feeling on Kenny Cooper’s performances in Portland so far, is he a fan favorite like he was in Dallas?
Well he started out a hero in Portland and, honestly, the fans do still love him. That said, the excitement for him has tempered a bit as he's not scored a goal in a few games. His tif regarding the penalty kick also hurt his image a bit, especially since the fans LOVE John Spencer. I think when Kenny Cooper starts scoring goals he'll become the fan favorite again, but given that the team is new and there are still some problems in the midfield I can certainly understand why that's difficult at the moment. Recently Cooper has been playing just below Perlaza which is certanly making both more of an attacking threat than they were when they played side by side.
Jack Jewsbury is leading Portland in goals and assists. Is this a good thing or a bad thing for Portland and is he one of the most underrated players in the league?
Good thing. I don't see how more goals and assists from any player can ever be a bad thing. It's a bad thing that our strikers aren't leading in goals, but that's completely separate from Cap'n Jack's accomplishments. He is absolutely the fan favorite player right now and he's really shined for this team. I hope he keeps it up.
As for being underrated. Tough question. I would certainly agree that Sporting Kansas City was neglecting a very talented midfielder (and look where it's gotten them). All I can say is that I thank the soccer gods (and Gavin Wilkinson and John Spencer) every day that they picked up up in mid-preseason as he's one of the main reasons why the Timbers aren't bottom of the barrel like our northern friends, the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The Portland Timbers take on FC Dallas tomorrow at 5:30PM. You can watch it live on Fox12. As usual expect the match thread to be up fairly early tomorrow morning.