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Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquakes Preview and Match Thread

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Another very important home game for the Portland Timbers tonight (geez I feel like I'm beating a dead horse now!). Really there's no such thing as a unimportant game, but with only 6 points left up for grabs at home, it's imperative that the take them.

There's not really much more to say than that. Game. Important. Must. Win. Check, check, check and check! Let's check out each side a little bit:

Assessing Our Team

The Portland Timbers have gone on a pretty impressive run in their last five games with three wins, a draw and a single loss. They've managed to rack up 10 points in the last four games. No matter how you slice it that's pretty damned impressive. Now, this is probably due to a few different factors, but one particular factor I'm going to talk about here is Diego Chara.

There are many theories on what brought the Timbers out of their slump. Each Stumptown Footy editor shared his opinion yesterday, but Diego Chara has really stood out in recent games. His recent run of form has netted him two goals so far, but his impact on the game itself is unmeasurable. He's always there constantly pressuring the ball and trying to make deep runs into the opposing box. While I don't know if he can keep this pace forever, it'll be important for him to make similar runs tonight... in fact he could be the most important player out there.

I'll also be interested in seeing whether David Horst is back on the field tonight. Despite his recent minor injury which kept him out of Sunday's game he's had an impeccable performance recently. So, if he's healthy, I would hope we'd see him. Our own Andrew Wheeler did notice that he was practicing 9v9 in training yesterday so that's always good news.

Finally, looking to the top spots, it'll be interesting if we see Jorge Perlaza come in again, or if Darlington Nagbe will take the striking position. Nobody can deny the kind of impact that had on Friday's game so it might be something the Timbers coaching staff will want to explore again.

Here's my projected starting line up:

Troy Perkins; Mike Chabala, David Horst, Eric Brunner, Lovel Palmer; Kalif Alhassan, Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, Sal Zizzo; Kenny Cooper, Darlington Nagbe

Assessing the Enemy

Looking to San Jose it's easy to see how this could be an easy game for the Timbers to win given their recent run of form. Chris Wondolowski and Bobby Cnvey haven't been as effective lately as they probably would have hoped. Still, that's no reason to brush the team aside. Remember, it was technically San Jose who was the first team to win against the Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field during the US Open Cup and they'll be coming in with every intention of doing the same.

I spoke yesterday to Robert Jonas of Quake, Rattle and Goal a bit about the team. According to him, one of the key pieces missing in San Jose right now is a key target forward. Something Wondolowski does usually, but has been having a rough time with defenders of late. Robert also attributes the lack of a solid second striker since Steven Lenhart's familial pause as being a reason for the downturn.

While the club isn't ready to quite admit it, they definitely seem to be planning more for next season than a serious play off push with rookies and younger players being given starting positions over MLS veterans. So it'll certainly be interesting to see who starts tonight.

Final Thoughts

There's not much more to say. Three points tonight will bring the Timbers to within reach of that magic 43 points number that would put them in a good position to either take the 5th Western Conference spot (unlikely) or one of the Eastern Conferences two wild card spots. In all honesty, it would be in the Timbers better interest anyways to get into the Eastern Conference play-offs due to the quality of competition being easier to handle.

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Tonight's game kicks off at 7:30 PM at Jeld-Wen Field on KPDX.