Another road game today. In fact, we won't have another regular season home game until July 30th against Toronto FC, a team that handily beat the Portland Timbers 2 - nil last March. Perhaps a couple of road games is what the Timbers need, however, to get out of their funk. They know they need a road win... what better place to achieve that than in Chicago against a team they beat during their home opener on April 14th.
The Timbers are currently winless in 7 straight matches. And if that sounds bad, you'll forgive me if I remind you that 6 of those are losses, not ties. It's unfortunate, but those are the stats we have. To get a road win today against Chicago would be a huge victory for the guys and would, hopefully, be a confidence boost heading into the match against the Columbus Crew away game next weekend.
So to say tonight's match is important is a bit of an understatement...
Assessing Our Team
Last week we saw a bit of an enigma walk out onto the field. Typically we were used to seeing a 4-4-2 formation with Jorge Perlaza and Kenny Cooper (or another striker) up top. Instead, what we saw was a 4-1-4-1 formation with James MArcelin dropping back and Perlaza up top by himself. It was a formation that actually worked fairly well with Perlaza netting one goal and essentially lending a foot in the second, which was later deemed an own goal for Seattle.I believe we'll see a similar set up tonight. With Kenny Cooper still not in full form (and possibly getting traded away) it just makes the most sense for Portland to have Marcelin helping with the beleaguered backline.
Speaking of the backline, tonight's back four will not be featuring Eric Brunner, who has been the mainstay in the back right position. His red card last weekend has seen to that. Instead we'll see Futty Danso teaming up with Kevin Goldthwaite to keep the position on lock down. It'll be interesting to see how the duo performs together as it'll be the first time this regular season that they've played side by side. I know a lot of fans like to give Goldthwaite grief, but during the last game he played he actually performed fairly well.
Here's my projected starting line up:
Troy Perkins; Rodney Wallace, Futty Danso, Kevin Goldthwaite, Steve Purdy; Kalif Alhassan, Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury, James Marcelin, Darlington Nagbe; Jorge Perlaza
Assessing the Enemy
Like the Timbers the Chicago Fire are another team that's having a lackluster 2011 season. In fact, Chicago has been having a few lackluster seasons. They're currently tied with us for points, but have two more games played than the Timbers putting the guys at an advantage heading into tonight's game.
That said, Chicago are sort of the king of draws at the moment which means, despite their low point numbers in the standings, that doesn't necessarily mean they're a bad team, it simply means they're giving as good as their taking. Currently they've drawn 12 times, lost 5 and only won 2 games. I'm not sure what it is about them that's making them so prone to drawing, but suffice it to say, to under-estimate them would probably be a mistake. They've only lost a single time this season at home.
The big news out of the Chicago Fire camp is the inclusion of Argentine midfielder Sebastian Grazzini earlier this week. He's expected to add a bit of that creative flair that supposedly Chicago has been missing this season. Luckily for us, he won't be starting in tonight's game and has, in fact, told the media that he probably wouldn't be playing at all, instead opting for a reserve match later in the week. In speaking with Tweed Thornton, Hot Time in Old Town manager, however, believes we might see him for 5-10 minutes tonight.
Here's Chicago's projected starting line up:
Sean Johnson; Bratislav Ristic, Yamith Cuesta, Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Segares; Marco Pappa, Daniel Paladini, Logan Pause, Patrick Nyarko; Dominic Oduro, Cristian Nazarit
I really wish there was something else I could say here. It seems like for the last two months each time I'm repeating myself.
Suffice it to say, we're officially at the half way mark of the season now. The Timbers need to win. They need the three points. It's time for the guys to get serious about either making the play-offs or looking ahead to next season altogether. I'd, personally, like to see the FO and our current team to keep pushing for one of those 10 spots, they just need to get themselves into the game. How they do that... that;s beyond my knowledge at this point.
Tonight's game is on Fox12 at 5:30 PM in Chicago.