Well, unofficially anyways. Technically both the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps bowed out of the Heritage Cup rivalry between former member's of the now defunct North American Soccer League that existed in the 1970s and 1980s. The "rivalry" as it stands today is merely between the Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes.
Still, it's fun to participate if only a little bit. I always considered San Jose to be the natural third rival with Portland anyways given the relative closeness with the Bay Area. Even if the Portland Timbers have no way to win the Heritage Cup this year, I'd like to see them get off on the right foot with a solid win over the now second to last in the West San Jose side.
So, with that said, let's take a small preview.
Riding the Momentum
I'll have more specifics on the Timbers tomorrow about their formations, tactics, etc. for the Match Thread so I'll keep this one a little short.
That said, the Timbers are riding a wave of momentum after a fantastic mid-week victory against the Los Angeles Galaxy. They played very well against the league leaders and it would be a shame if they failed to capitalize on that momentum against a beleaguered San Jose Earthquakes team.
A large part of any soccer game is the mentality. A constant question against the Timbers is always going against their confidence which was shaken by a couple of lousy months. Now it's important for them to take that confidence built and not fall back into old habits like giving away needless goals after the 70th minute.
Against the likes of Bobby Convey and Chris Wondolowski, that might be challenging...
San Jose's Double Threat
San Jose has a serious threat at its disposal when they take the field tomorrow night. I am, of course, speaking about Chris Wondolowski, the Golden Boot winner for 2010. So far this year he's taking a similar path with 8 goals total. While that only puts him in fourth place in the league, he's not that far off from over taking league leaders Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry at 11 a piece. That would only take a hattrick, which he has gotten in the past.
Then, right behind him usually sits Bobby Convey, a speedy attacking midfielder that has caused many problems for many different backlines. While his current 2011 season isn't spectacular as of yet, he's largely to be considered similar to Landon Donovan in style and play and his career speaks for itself, although it appears he's been used more defensively as of late.
The good news (for the Timbers anyway) is that their second highest goal scorer for the season, Steven Lenhart, is currently on an indefinite leave of absence while he deals with same family problems. Former USL Timbers man, Alan Gordon, is also on the injury list as "Questionable." Without the two of them I feel much more comfortable with San Jose's attacking prospects. My guess is we'll see a Wondolowski, Scott Sealy lead attack, the latter of which has been relatively benign since joining the club.
Here was San Jose's starting line up last weekend:
Jon Busch; Tim Ward, Ramiro Corrales, Nana Attakora, Bobby Convey; Jacob Peterson, Khari Stephenson (Matt Luzunaris 66), Sam Cronin, Chris Wondolowski; Alan Gordon (Anthony Ampaipitakwong 73), Scott Sealy (Joey Gjertsen 58)
Tomorrow's game kicks off at 7:30 PM on ROOT SPORTS in San Jose.