With each loss and draw, the next game becomes that much more important. That means that this Saturday's game against a bottom-dwelling Sporting Kansas City is far more important than any the has come before it. At this point in the season, points are needed. Confidence needs to be regained. The team needs to figure out who they are and how they're going to get to the play-offs.
Unfortunately for the Timbers, Sporting KC are no longer the middling team they were prior to their stadium opening earlier this month. In fact, since they played their first game at home (which was a nil-nil draw) they've gone on to win three times and draw once. One of those games was an away game to Pizza Hut Park against FC Dallas, the team that most recently thwomped the Timbers 4 - 0. Sporting KC played an impressive game and won handily 4 - 1.
So to say that, given their relative position in the standings currently, Sporting KC will be a walk in the park and should be an easy three points is nothing short of arrogant.
Looking ahead to the actual team there are a few standouts to look out for: notably their Designated Player Omar Bravo and Teal Bunbury.Omar Bravo most recently came from the Mexican league side Chivas de Guadalajara, one of the premiere Mexican league sides and he was loved there for his technical abilities. In fact, if memory serves me right, there was quite a disgruntlement from the fans at his departure to MLS. Since arriving in Kansas City for the 2011 season, he's only scored 3 goals and notched one assist, but, that stat comes with a asterisk in that he was out for 6 weeks due to a hernia injury, something which also may have hampered him earlier in the season before he got his surgery. Since then he's grown more adept to the MLS play style. In the last game, for example, he notched a goal and an assist. Not bad at all.
Looking to his partner up top is Teal Bunbury, a young striker the team is building around. Many pundits believe he should have been called up to the USMNT for the Gold Cup and were surprised when Chris Wondolowski got called up instead. I tend to agree with those sentiments. While he's still young, Bunbury has the raw talent to be one of America's most prominent strikers up there with the likes of Juan Agudelo.
One spot of good news for the guys on Saturday is that Davy Arnaud, the team's veteran captain, is confirmed to be out for a few weeks due to a similar injury that Omar Bravo incurred earlier this season. The role will likely be filled by a less experienced player like Roger Espinoza which should, in theory, give both Jack Jewsbury (if he's able to play) and Diego Chara some space to work with in the midfield.
As I said above, Saturday is probably the most important game we've seen yet. A loss to Sporting KC at home would deal significant damage to an already shaky side, but more so than that, the team just needs 3 points. It's at the level now where with each successive opportunity lost, the Timbers get that much closer to being dubbed "just another expansion team." That's certainly something I don't relish hearing...
I'll have my questions/answer preview with Andy from The Daily Wiz up tomorrow. Saturday's game kicks off at 8:00PM on Fox12 should you not find a seat in the stadium.