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MLS First Kick: Portland Timbers vs. Philadelphia Union Live Blog and Preview [6:30 PM]

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This is it! The wait is finally over! I know we've been flooding you guys with content today and that's because, as with everybody else in this city, we're pretty damn excited about tonight's match. It's been a long time coming and now that it's finally here, I'm not even really sure what to do with myself. Aside from write this match thread that is.

Anyway, there's really no need for an explanation, but tonight's game is against the Philadelphia Union and will be broadcast on ESPN2 and so catch it there if you're unable to get to the game itself. Those that were with us last year will remember that the Portland Timbers came out ahead against the Philadelphia Union last year with a win at home and a draw away. Of course, those kind of stats mean very little after the off season as both teams will be sporting different players on the field tonight.

Let's check out each team:

Assessing Our Team

The Timbers are coming off a great pre-season run with a handful of wins and a couple draws. That said, I'd be lying if I gave the impression that they were perfect. The fact of the matter is that during the latter part of the pre-season, including the tournament, they seemed to be losing their luster for the game. After what started off with a thwomping of the LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo (the two MLS Cup contenders last year) ended with a handful of 1-nil wins. While those will do in the regular season, they don't exactly inspire confidence heading into our first match.

The big news heading into tonight's game is two fold.

First we have Kris Boyd and his performance up top. We saw just what he was able to do against AIK and the amount of control he has when it comes to levying a shot on target. While he's not one for running back into the midfield, his skills in the box were very apparent against AIK. It will be imperative for him to repeat his performance tonight.

Second, we recieved word yesterday that the Timbers will be without Colombian Hanyer Mosquera in the backline. This creates a big problem for the Timbers as it leaves Eric Brunner with rookie Andrew Jean-Baptiste (given Futty Danso's and David Horst's respective injuries) for defensive covering. Not to say AJB isn't a skilled defender, but his youth and inexperience makes me a little worried heading into the night's game.

This is of course all pending on whether Mosquera's ITC comes in. As far as I know, as of the time this was published, it has not.

Here's my predicted starting line up:

GK: Troy Perkins

DEF: Lovel Palmer, Eric Brunner, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Rodney Wallace

MID: Darlington Nagbe, Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury (c), Kalif Alhassan

FWD: Jorge Perlaza, Kris Boyd

Assessing the Enemy

Before I begin here, I strongly suggest checking out both my own interview with Scott Kessler from the Brotherly Game on what the Philadelphia Union has been up to as well as Ryan's own piece on what the Timbers need to do to win tonight. Both should give you a bit more insight into what to expect in tonight's game, especially if you're at all curious about what this Philadelphia team looks like.

I already mentioned that the Timbers had the upper hand last year over Philly which should, hopefully, inspire some confidence in the team. That said, however, Philly underwent some fairly dramatic changes in the off hand which makes them a bit of a mystery.

The big news for them during the off season was the trade of Sebastien Le Toux to the Vancouver Whitecaps (which will surely come back to hurt us in the future). This left a noticeable gap in the attacking power which Scott seems to think won't necessarily be filled by any single player this year, but rather by the team as a whole.

The other noticeable difference is the absence of veteran keeper Faryd Mondragon who departed the team during the off season. This means we'll probably see second year rookie Zac MacMath in goal for the Union tonight, something I actually like quite a bit. Not to say he's a bad keeper, but he's still young and I would argue that he's probably one of the league's worst keepers based on that fact. I could always be proven wrong of course.

Oh and one more thing... try not to piss these guys off too much because they've been known to get into big brawls before.

Predicted starting line up:

4-4-2 (4-2-2-2); MacMath (GK), Lopez (LB), Danny Califf (LCB), Carlos Valdes (RCB), Sheanon Williams (RB); Adu (LM/LCAM), Gomez (LCM/LCDM), Brian Carroll (RCM/RCDM), Michael Farfan (RM/RCAM); Pajoy (LS), Danny Mwanga (RS)

Live Blog

As usual, we'll be running our usual live blog. I think we'll be doing this from now on because of the discussion we can get going using it. Still, we're always open to suggestions and feedback so sound off in the comments if you'd prefer otherwise.