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Portland Timbers vs. New York Red Bulls Preview and Match Thread

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PORTLAND, OR - SEPTEMBER 21: Diego Charra #21 of the Portland Timbers battles Sam Cronin #4 of the San Jose Earthquakes on September 21, 2011 at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR - SEPTEMBER 21: Diego Charra #21 of the Portland Timbers battles Sam Cronin #4 of the San Jose Earthquakes on September 21, 2011 at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
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So Wednesday's game didn't go exactly as planned. Unfortunately, despite earning the three points at home like the Timbers were supposed to, they abrely hung on to the single point against a struggling San Jose Earthquakes side. And this AFTER both Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA did the Portland Timbers a huge favor by beating/drawing their respective Eastern Conference sides... frustrating to say the least.

So that makes tonight's game all the more important, a win tonight would bring the Timbers back up to safer play off levels especially if San Jose also manages to beat the Colorado Rapids putting the two teams within a point of each other in the standings.

Of course, to do that the Timbers will have to win on the road... something they've only done a single time so far this season.

Assessing Our Team

Let's get this out of the way right now: the Timbers did not play at all well last Wednesday. I don't know what the problem was. maybe it was exhaustion, maybe they just had a fluke night. Regardless, I didn't like it. It reminded me of the dark days during the middle of the summer when the team went on a rather long losing streak.

The big news heading into tonight's match is the two guys up top: Darlington Nagbe and Kenny Cooper. In the past two games these two have each scored and/or assisted in scoring. This could be the combination we've been looking for all season. No offense to Jorge Perlaza ho is himself a very talented striker as well, but we'll need these guys producing as they have been tonight, Nageb especially who is an incredibly talented midfielder.

Next I'd like to see captain Jack jewsbury getting back into the game a bit. Despite the Timbers recent run of good form, it's been a while since I've seen him make a meaningful impact on the game and he was all but invisible against San Jose. His last assist was against the Vancouver Whitecaps over a month ago and his last goal was in Portland's 2-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo. As a team the Timbers need him to show up each and every game.

Finally, I'd like to see David Horst starting ahead of Futty Danso once again. Futty was a fine sub while Horst was out but during the last game I wasn't seeing the same sort of conviction out of the center backs than I was back when Horst was playing regularly. Plus with the exhaustion of three games in just over a week, it might be better to see Futty come out anyways.

Here's my projected (hopeful) starting line up:

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

Assessing the Enemy

The New York Red Bulls are an interesting side and one that's increasingly challenging to figure out, partly because they've had a busy transfer season, but also because they're an incredibly talented side on paper that seems to be failing dramatically during actual play.

The big news coming out of their camp this week is the whole affair with Rafael Marquez, the team's second highest paid player behind Thierry Henry. Coming over from Barcelona FC he was expected to shore up the midfield and defense to the point where it would be unstoppable. Instead, he's flubbed around and given up far too many goals whilst at the same time blaming his other team mates for not being up to his level. Oh yes, this guy has quite the ego...

No one yet knows what the outcome of this drama will be on the field. My guess is the team would be fairly demoralized. What we do know is that NRYB head coach Hans Backe has sidelined the Mexican international for his incredulous statements. As such we'll probably see Stephen Keel (whoo!) in his position next to Tim Ream.

Of course, up top the New York side is still just as dangerous as ever with golden boot contender Thierry Henry leading the pack. Despite the recent performances of the team, and the Rafa Marquez drama, Henry has been an incredible player throughout so expect him to be giving the Timbers backline problems all night.

Final Thoughts

Must win... two words I'm thoroughly sick of saying right now. In all honesty though, tonight's game probably isn't a must win. It's a needed win. It's a win that would be super amazing to have. But if the Timbers go home with one or zero points tonight they won't be entirely out of play off contention. Still with important games at Vancouver away and at home against Houston coming up next three points in New York tonight would go a long long towards ensuring the post season position.

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Tonight's game kicks off at 4:30 PM on ROOT SPORTS.