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Portland Timbers vs. Chivas USA Preview and Match Thread [8:00 PM]

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Tonight's match will be our last home game for over 3 weeks as the Portland TImbers then head off to D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union for a couple of away matches while taking a week long break at the beginning of September (probably much deserved after this August's string of 7 matches). So take it in as much as possible and prepare yourself for some withdrawals...

Anyway, tonight's match is against Chivas USA. So far this year the Timbers are 1-1-0 (W-L-D) against the southern California side having beaten Chivas 2-nil at Merlo Field in US Open Cup play and then losing to them much more recently at the Home Depot Center. Both teams are almost even in the Western Conference standings making tonight's match that much more exhilarating. Each has quite a bit to win or lose from tonight's game.

Let's check out each team:

Assessing Our Team

The Timbers are coming off an impressive game against the Vancouver Whitecaps which saw them win 2-1 over our Cascadian rivals. In fact, it was a game dominated by a single man: Diego Chara. I'm not sure what the Timbers would have done without him to be honest as, aside from scoring one hell of a goal in the first two minutes, he was constantly pressuring and making decisive plays that lead to meaningful attacks. It's my hope we'll see a similar fire from him tonight, although soccer can be a cruel sport.

Aside from that the other big news coming out of last weekend's game was that Futty Danso was injured. It was unfortunate because he was having a good game up until then but a hamstring pull has caused him to sit on the sidelines for a few weeks. As such we'll probably see Eric Brunner and David Horst starting with Steve Purdy sitting on the bench in case anything dangerous happens.

It'll be interesting if we get to see recent pick up Eric Alexander at any time tonight. I',m not sure what's happening with him, but I'm assuming the Timbers may not play him until either the DC United match or, more more likely, against the Philadelphia Union. That said, instead of subbing in James Marclin I think I'd rather see what Alexander can do in that position. We'll see...

Up top I'm assuming we'll be seeing the usual combination of Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza. Perlaza has scored in each of his last three home games so that's something to hopefully look forward to. I'd also like to see Cooper net a home goal as it's been quite a while since he's gotten one.

Here's my projected starting line up:

Troy Perkins; Mike Chabala, David Horst, Eric Brunner, Lovel Palmer; Sal Zizzo, Jack Jewsbury (c), Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe; Kenny Cooper, Jorge Perlaza

Assessing the Enemy

If you read my interview with Alicia from The Goat Parade you'll probably have a better understanding of the current Chivas USA squad. If you haven't I suggest checking it out!

The last time Portland faced off against Chivas the guys came home with 0 points. It's unfortunate but such is soccer. Still, given that last result it's even more important for the Timbers to earn their keep tonight. Chivas, however, won't be looking to make that an easy prospect.

First, the big guy to look out for will be Juan Pablo Angel. You guys will probably remember him from the Los Angeles Galaxy in the game splayed previously against LA. He was fairly ineffectual at LA leading many to wonder if he was too old to play the game. However, in his first and only game with Chivas so far he has scored a goal. So it's quite possible he just never fit in with LA's squad...

Another player to watch out for will be Nick LaBrocca. He's been stellar for the California squad this year and was a constant thorn in the side of the Timbers during their last meet up. In Chivas's usual diamond formation he operates as the attacking element feeding to players like Juan Pable Angel or Justin Braun (when he's playing up top).

Here is who Alicia is expecting to start tonight:

GK: Dan Kennedy
DF: Michael Lahoud, Heath Pearce, Michael Umana, Ante Jazic
MF: Ben Zemanski, Simon Elliott, Nick LaBrocca, Jorge Flores
FW: Juan Pablo Angel, Alejandro Moreno

Final Thoughts

The Timbers only have 4 home games left (including tonight's match). If they can win each of those games they'll be in a good position to secure a play-off spot with 42 points so long as they can win at least one road game and get a couple draws. It'll take a bit of luck in the standings, but contrary to what I've said in the past, I think the Timbers can  still very much get into the play-offs this year, but it all starts with tonight's game.

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Tonight's match kiks off at 8:00 PM at Jeld-Wen Field. You can catch it on ROOT SPORTS.