Before I begin, I'd just like to apologize about the like of a proper preview on tonight's game. I had intended to do the usual question/answer deal, but my "informant" never responded in time. It's quite a shame because Chivas USA is one of these teams that just sort of eludes me. Aside from a couple key players, I'm not well knowledged in the team or its tactics.
Tonight's game is important. In fact it's really important for both teams to get the 3 points. At this stage, even as an away game, I don't think coming home with a draw would be considered anything other than disappointing. The Timbers need to win, they need their strikers to score goals and they need to get the monkey of their back that is away games.
Chivas USA aren't going to be looking to do the Timbers any favors, however, coming off a mid-week draw at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps will just make them all the more determined tonight.
Assessing Our Team
Last week was a tough pill to swallow. The Timbers lost their first ever home game to a team that was playing quite a few bench warmers due to injuries. Worse still, the Timbers, at no point, dominated the game. DC United owned last week's game in almost every area on the field. Tonight's game will be seen as an important step in restoring the early April form of the Timbers.The big question mark tonight though is Kenny Cooper. Our star striker is in a bit of a slump of late and he's not scoring goals, or when he does they're quickly called as offsides. Whether or not this is his fault or the midfields doesn't really matter, his frustration has been building in recent games and against DCU it was particularly noticeable. Kenny Cooper needs to get a legitimate goal scored. Not for the fans, John Spencer, the Timbers, or his team mates... he needs to do it for himself.
Another thing to note is that Sal Zizzo will probably get the starting position tonight. I know many people like him as a sub with that burst of speed and injury, but until Darlington Nagbe is back to 100%, it's better for the team that Zizzo starts.
Here's my predicted starting line up:
Troy Perkins; Rodney Wallace, Mamadou "Futty" Danso, Eric Brunner, Jeremy Hall; Kalif Alhassan, Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, Sal Zizzo; Kenny Cooper, Jorge Perlaza
No huge surprises expected.
Assessing the Enemy
It's easy to go into this match with the idea that the Timbers already beat Chivas 2 - 0 back in March and that's that. Easy team, easy game, right? If only... Fact of the matter is that Chivas USA has been steadily building into a quality side since the early season. Robin Fraser, their new head coach, has slowly built up a quality side that probably won't look anything like the U.S. Open Cup play-in side we all saw at Merlo Field.
In particular one player I'm continually worried about on Chivas USA's roster is Justin Braun. While he currently only has 3 goals and a single assist, this is a player I'm constantly impressed with. He's young, speedy and very dynamic.
It's tough to say largely because I don't know which Portland Timbers team will show up tonight. John Spencer had mentioned earlier that the team was practicing harder and giving more than they were previously so that's good news. Still, the Timbers inconsistencies are starting to catch up with them. If they don't come out 100% each and every game there may not even be a point in walking out at all.
Tonight's game kicks off at 7:30 PM and is being broadcast on ROOT Sports.