The first of many match threads to come for 2012 and this one happens to be against a west coast rival in San Jose Earthquakes. But, before I begin, let me just state that the Portland Timbers WILL be streaming this game online for those who can't make it out to the game. So there's some good news.
Now, for the match itself, there's not a lot that I expect. Obviously a win is better than a loss, but really we're just looking for a solid performance and for members of the tam to gel together. Remember, win or lose tonight, pre-season is all about getting match fit for the regular season and results here do not matter. I've seen teams with great pre-seasons fumble around in the regular season and vice versa. So I guess what I'm trying to say is: don't read too much into tonight's results.
Also, if you scroll down below you'll see we're using the CoverItLive! live blog once again. This tournament will be a testing ground for the service so let us know if you like it or not in the comments! Our very own Andy and Ryan will be manning it for tonight's game.
And off the the team previews!
Assessing Our Team
It's been an eventful off season for the Portland Timbers this year with many big additions and some minor set backs. Still, I would definitely say the Timbers have come out ahead this time around with the likes of Hanyer Mosquera, Joe Bendik, Kris Boyd, Franck Songo'o and Brent Richards joining up in the off season (amongst others).The big news tonight will be who gets the start and who plays at all. We know Boyd will probably not be seen tonight as he was still missing from training yesterday. Additionally, while Nagbe and Palmer were training it would probably be wise to consider them being left out tonight, although I suppose anything can happen.
Ideally, I would love to see Brent Richards get some meaningful minutes alongside Jorge Perlaza. With both Boyd and Nagbe out at the moment it will be up to Perlaza, Richards and Dike to lead the effort until they're back in match fit form (which could be sooner or later). As such, I think our newest (of the three) addition should definitely be shown off tonight against San Jose, although I would expect all three to make an appearance given that 4 ubs are allowed in each half, with the half time allowing for an unlimited amount.
I'm also very interested to see how Mosquera handles himself in the backend. Obviously, he is seen as the saving grace for the defensive backline, so it will be imperative that he proves himself there.
Finally, Rodney Wallace, Steve Purdy and Futty Danso ae all still on international duty so don't expect them here tonight. Additionally Songo'o is out of the country for visa issues so he probably won't be here tonight.
Eric Brunner was also notably missing yesterday due to a bone bruising and, as such, probably won't get minutes tonight.
Here's my very speculative starting line up for tonight:
Troy Perkins; Ryan Kawulok, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Hanyer Mosquera, Mike Chabala; Eric Alexander, Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury (c), Kalif Alhassan; Jorge Perlaza, Brent Richards
Assessing the Enemy
Pre-season opposing team assessments are always the most difficult as it's really challenging to say who will actually play and who the Timbers should look out for, especially since I'm not all that familiar with many of their newest additions.
Hopefully you read my interview with Robert Jonas yesterday as that shed quite a bit of light on just who the Earthquakes are these days.
In any case, the two players most likely to see minutes tonight are Chris Wondolowski and Stephen Lenhart as the club will want to get these two gelling fairly quickly since they're likely to be the starting striking pair. Most of you should be familiar with Wondolowski as he's been one of league's top goalscorers for a couple seasons now and should be seen as a serious threat.
It's also worth noting that the Timbers have not fared exceptionally well against the Northern California side with loss in U.S. Open Cup play and two draws in the regular season so clearly they were doing something last year to quell the Timbers a bit. Let's hope that's changed for the better this season.
I honestly have no idea who San Jose will start so I think I'll avoid speculating on a starting line up here.
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