Big game tonight! I know I say that every game day, but tonight's game, especially, is very important for a few reasons. The first of which is that as we head into July we have to start wondering and worrying about the play-offs come November. If the Portland Timbers don't start winning games now they can consider themselves out of the running. The second reason is that July and August are two very busy months with a combined 15 games (including friendlies) between thwm. Better to get off on the right foot with a solid victory over Sporting Kansas City than head into next week's Cascadia Cup match with a loss.
Heading into tonight's match there's been a lot of rumors going around about this or that player being left out of the starting line up. Honestly, I'm not sure what tonight's team is going to look like. As far as I know everybody's place was up in the air save captain Jack Jewsbury. I know John Spencer said everybody, but Jewsbury has given little reason as to why he would be left out.
So, with that said, let's examine each team:
Assessing Our Team
As I already mentioned, I'm not sure who's going to be in tonight's squad. So that's going to make it a little difficult to preview tonight's game. I'm fairly confident Jorge Perlaza will be taking a starting role tonight. Despite not scoring recently, he's simply too fast and aggressive to leave on the bench. Kenny Cooper, on the other hand, might be left on the bench as I discussed the other day. Not because he doesn't have the skill, but because something clearly isn't working. Perhaps he needs the motivation to earn back his spot to get him going again. We can only hope...Looking back to the midfield there were some worried today that our usual captain could be out with groin injury. He is presently on the "Probable" injury list, but he missed a full day of training earlier this week so who knows. Given that he's currently our best player, that would be a huge detriment to the team and is certainly something I'm hoping isn't going to happen.
Some other rumors regarding the midfield had Darlington Nagbe on the bench with Sal Zizzo starting. I like Zizzo and I thin he's a fantastic player, but again he's a speed demon. While Id love for him to get more comfortable and get a bit better technically, I haven't seen where he's been better than Nagbe in that aspect. I would, personally, like to see him continue to be a substitute.
Finally, the backline... the bane of the Portland Timbers. Mamadou "Futty" Danso continues to be on the injury list as "Probable" but I fully expect him to be match fit ready for tonight. Whether he makes it or whether Kevin Goldthwaite starts after last week's FC Dallas match I don't know. Also, some rumors had Steve Purdy starting ahead of Jeremy Hall at right back. I'd like to see Purdy given the top spot again as I've not been terribly impressed with Hall.
Here's my projected starting line up:
Troy Perkins; Rodney Wallace, Futty Danso, Eric Brunner, Steve Purdy; Kalif Alhassan, Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury (c), Darlingtno Nagbe; Jorge Perlaza, Eddie Johnson
Again though I could be completely off...
Assessing the Enemy
I did a brief scouting report earlier this week on Sporting KC, but today I've got some new information thanks to one very helpful commentator the other day.
First, the good news is that Davy Arnaud, Sporting's stalwart captain, is confirmed to be out which should give the Timbers midfield a little extra room to breath. At least I'm hoping so.
Still, the team will have to fend off the club's designated player Omar Bravo who has just recently been getting back into form. In his last game he scored once and got an assist. Closing down on him should be a priority for the team.
In my scouting report I also mentioned Teal Bunbury, but have since learned that he probably will not be getting the start tonight as he's not been playing very well this season thus far. Instead commenter Replicant pointed out that instead we could be seeing another youngster by the name of CJ Sapong who has been playing very well in recent games for Sporting KC.
It's also worth nting that, despite the rough start to the season, since opening their home stadium earlier in June, Sporting KC has been on somewhat of a dominant streak. They've won against a few teams, both home and away. They even beat FC Dallas at Dallas 4 - 1. So if you were at all thinking tonight's game was going to be a freebie, think again. This is a team that is fast getting its act together.
Unfortunately, I don't have a projected starting line up for Sporting KC.
What else is there to say? Tonight is a must win. more so than that, however, the Timbers need to be dominant. Little things like ball control continue to be a major problem for the Timbers in all areas of the field. If the Timbers can come out tonight and dominate the game from beginning to end, they may just be able to work themselves back into the play-off picture. If not, well then, I guess the team will be just another expansion team for the season. A shame, certainly, but when the description fits...
Tonight's game is at Jeld-Wen Field and airs on Fox 12. Kick off is at 8:00 PM.