First home game in just over three weeks! Can you feel the excitement. The city is positively buzzing with anticipation for tonight's big game against... the New England Revolution... Seriously! It's actually a really big game tonight. Regardless of who the actual opponent is there's a lot to be excited about for tonight's game.
First, if the Timbers win they're three points close to getting that play-off spot. That would be huge in the Timbers first ever MLS season. Also head coach John Spencer believes that the Timbers only need 10 points to make it. So with seven games left, three of those being home games, it's certainly doable. Of course, that 10 point number isn't a hard fact, it's a best guess estimation. Still though, it's doable!
Second, tonight will be the first time the Timbers welcome 20,000+ fans into Jeld-Wen Field. As cool as it was sellng out 18,627 each game, I think surpassing the 20,000 mark is almost a right of passage for MLS teams. It shows that there is serious support and demand for tickets in the city. While tonight is merely one game, it'll go along way in proving if there is enough support for it next year.
But enough of all the semantics, let's just get to the game preview:
Assessing Our Team
The Timbers are currently coming off an 'alright' away game against the Philadelphia Union. Yeah, sure, some pundits out there are claiming the game as a victory because, well, this year it's pretty atypical for a team to travel so far and come home with any amount of points. Still, a draw is a draw and a team shouldn't be applauded for a nil-nil effort. I want to see more.So it's important for the Timbers to come out tonight and play with passion and energy, as they usually do at home, starting with our two guys up front. I'm sorry but Jorge Perlaza and Kenny Cooper were not as impressive as they usually are last weekend. Both players need to be on their A-game tonight and connect with the midfield to get into those tight spaces around Matt Reis' goal.
Of course, the big news coming out of Timbers HQ tonight is the David Horst injury. After missing a couple practices this week, the coaching staff has basically said it'll be a gameday decision, one that we still do not know. If he's out that means Futty Danso is back in and, while I like Futty, Horst was on a hot streak and it would be a damn shame if he was taken out by an injury right in the middle of it when the Timbers need him most.
Here's my predicted/hopeful starting line up:
Troy Perkins; Mike Chabala, David Horst, Eric Brunner, Lovel Palmer; Kalif Alhassan, Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury (c), Sal Zizzo; Jorge Perlaza, Kenny Cooper
Assessing the Enemy
New England is currently a difficult team to peg. Their pretty much out of the play-offs already after a fairly lackluster season, but then they're also on a bit of a hot streak lead by Rajko Lekic and Monsef Zerka, a duo from the other side of the world that's just hammering in goals right now. If you weren't abe to catch it, New England lead Philly 4-1 at the half last week. Even though they gave up three more goals in the second half, what they did in the first half was very exciting to see. They then held FC Dallas (you know that team that whomped the Timbers 4-nil earlier this year?) to a 2-nil victory...
So where is all this coming from? Well, if you read my preview chat with the Bent Musket yesterday, you'd have seen that the Revolution are trying a couple different things. The first of which is that USMNT player Benny Feilhaber is now playing as a central mid instead of a winger where he's more comfortable. Second is, as ever, the Revs stalwart captain Shalrie Joseph. According to Steve he has been having a phenomenal season so far and is only getting better now that the team is clicking.
So what this all means is that, despite being a overall lackluster team this season, it looks like New England might actually be a formidable opponent tonight. As they almost did in Philadelphia they'll be looking to bring home three points and play spoil sport for the Timbers play-off run.
Here's their projected starting line up:
Matt Reis; Kevin Alston, AJ Soares, Ryan Cochrane, Darrius Barnes; Monsef Zerka, Shalrie Joseph, Benny Feilhaber, Chris Tierney; Rajko Lekic, Milton Caraglio
Three home games, nine crucial points. No matter how you swing it, with the Timbers current road record this year, they need tonight's points. Without them they're pretty much resigned to not getting those 10 points that John Spencer says will get them to the play offs.
Tonight's game kicks off at 8:00PM at Jeld-Wen Field. You can also catch the game on FOX Soccer if you opt to stay at home.