Last home game until August 20th and boy is it ever a big one. Those of who you have been following the Portland Timbers will remember the thrashing the LA Galaxy gave the guys at the Home Depot Center last April. They played confidently and very technically. I guess that's what you get when you spend over $10 million on salary per season.
Still, the Timbers have a habit of playing very well at home against opponents who should come out on top. The game against the New York Red Bulls is a great example of this. While New York started off well with an early goal, the Timbers were able to rebound in the second half with a stellar performance. It was only due to a PK in stoppage time that they ended up drawing.
But enough about games that happened in the past, let's talk about tonight's match.
Assessing Our Team
The Timbers are coming off a disappointing 2-2- draw against "worst in the league" side Toronto FC. It was a game they dominated. It was a game they controlled. It was a game they should have won. Unfortunately, they've acquired a nasty habit of falling apart after the 70th minute that has lead them to cede victory after victory, draw after draw. Playing against a team like LA, they'll make you pay for such a trait.The good news is that I was left rather impressed with both Mike Chabala and Lovel Palmer playing in the back wing positions. Both played fairly well, specifically Chabala who I think has a solid head on his shoulders. He controls the ball and makes precision passes that get the ball moving up top. While he's lacking Wallace's speed I think, at the moment, having a back left defender who is more defensively minded is better overall for the team.
The big worry right now is the 70th minute fatigue the team gets. Last week we saw a 2-nil elad slip because the team couldn't hold it together. Worse yet is we saw strikers continue to be subbed on instead of the more logical choice that is James Marcelin. I understand wanting to get Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza minutes, but those three points matter more so than anything else. If Eddie Johnson starts tonight (which he should) and the team is up by the 70th minute, Marcelin should come on for Alhassan or Nagbe.
Aside from that there's little critiquing to do about the team. I liked having David Horst and Eric Brunner in the center positions. I thought they played fairly well together.
Here's my projected starting line up:
Troy Perkins; Mike Chabala, David Horst, Eric Brunner, Lovel Palmer; Kalif Alhassan, Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Jack Jewsbury (c), Sal Zizzo; Eddie Johnson
Assessing the Enemy
I already broke down LA in an article yesterday so I won't bother getting to in depth with the squad here. You should check that out for a more comprehensive coverage of the opposing team.
That said, what we are looking at right now is the best team in MLS, bar none. They've been undefeated since May 1st. Essentially take all the Timbers woes for the last few months, reverse them and you have LA in a nutshell. This was also throughout the CONCACAF Gold Cup when Landon Donovan was missing. So don't believe that their team is completely tied up in their captain.
The big question mark for tonight is whether Landon Donovan or David Beckham will start tonight. Both were listed as "Questionable" on the official injury list as of yesterday, but both were also practicing regularly with the team last night. So it's really up in the air. The team also has a game against FC Dallas (arguably a much stronger opponent that the Timbers) this weekend so they may end up just resting some of their key players.
One thing that is true is that LA is coming here expecting to take home three points.
LA is a strong team. They've been built up in such a manner since their spectacular season failing in 2008. The following season they made it to MLS Cup under the command of their new coach Bruce Arena. Since then they've been a powerhouse team once again. It would be wise for Timbers fans to temper their excitement for a win tonight because the stats are against us. That said, as an eternal optimist, I can only say: screw LA. Tonight is a must win for the team and I fully expect three points.
Tonight's match starts at 7:30 at Jeld-Wen Field. Those of you not attending can catch the game on ESPN2 or ESPN3.com.