I am filling in for Geoff as time was of the essence for the writers of Big D and I was the only SF writer available at the time. I was able to ask the three questions of Big D soccer and was asked three in return. Big D also has a nice piece on the scouting the Timbers.
SF: There is a lot of European interest in a couple of your younger players, namely George John and Brek Shea, what kind of affect on the team and the players will this have?
Good question. I think we're all in kind of wait and see mode on that one. I've maintained all along that Brek Shea will not be sold this season and I'm holding onto that. With the Olympics(fingers crossed) coming up this summer and an FC Dallas team that is good enough to challenge for MLS Cup, it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to worry about being sold this season. This winter, it very well could happen but I don't think it's going to have much affect on Shea's play.
In the case of George John, your guess is as good as mine. The positive aspect of the whole situation with him is that Dallas has been forced to sign Colombian center back Hernan Pertuz and he was arguably the man of the match next to Ugo Ihemelu on Sunday.
SF: With the cup run 2 years ago and last years disappointing early do you think expectations remain high for this team or have they been lowered? Is this team a Supporters Shield Challenger?
I don't think FC Dallas is a Supporters Shield challenger simply because they don't have the depth that you need to compete in every game with international absences and all the rigors of the regular season. However, when you look at the FC Dallas ideal starting XI, it is clearly better than the starting XI that went to MLS Cup in 2010 so I think most fans in Dallas still have high expectations. Depth isn't really terribly important come the playoffs as long as the starting XI is healthy and firing on all cylinders in October.
SF: What will the starting line-up look like for Saturday and which player needs to step-up and fill the role of Brek Shea (since he will be with the US U-23 team)?
There's actually a ton of questions about the starting lineup that aren't answered yet. Fabian Castillo(right midfield) and Ricardo Villar(attacking midfield) are both injury question marks and Dallas is in trouble if they can't start. Brek's left wing role will be covered by Panamanian Carlos Rodriguez who looked very solid on Sunday against New York. He's a left back by trade and doesn't necessarily offer a whole lot offensively, but Rodriguez & Benitez will do a good job at shutting down Kalif Alhassan. On the right, if Castillo can't go, you could see the Cal University product Andrew Wiedeman given his first ever MLS start.
Dallas' biggest strength is at the back where they will have Ugo Ihemelu, Zach Loyd, Kevin Hartman, Jair Benitez and either George John or Hernan PErtuz at center back. It's an extremely solid combination of players that have been together for 3 seasons now and will give the Portland attack tons of problems.
Just out the questions I answered after the jump.
Big D: Kris Boyd seemed to make a pretty good impression on his first outing with Portland. Talk about the kind of forward he is and do you expect him to get on the score sheet again this weekend?
Kris Boyd is the prototypical striker in a 4-2-2 as he likes to stay with-in the 18 yard box lines no matter where the ball is on the field. Kenny Cooper last year had a tendency to drift our wide and thus left our other striker by himself and essentially turning our formation to a 4-5-1, which the Timbers did not have the right type of players to play. With Boyd they now play the 4-4-2 formation the way it was meant to be played, down the wings and then balls into the box.
The sentiment in Portland is that we expect Boyd to always get at least 1 or 2 dangerous chances in front of goal and based on his strike rate we hope for a goal every other game. If Portland can keep feeding the Boyd he could score every game, so yes I would expect him to score this weekend.
Big D: Last season, Portland's home form was good enough to get them into the playoffs, but it was the dismal road form that ended their season early. What do the Timbers need to do to be better on the road this year?
The biggest thing for Portland is to mentally be prepared for the road because they do not have a home crowd to boost them up on the road. I believe Portland let in a goal in the first 20 minutes of the game 8 times on the road last year and only twice came back to tie the game, which just shows you how mentally unprepared they were last year. Granted quite a few of last years starting 11 were younger players not used to the travel MLS puts teams through, especially with the balanced schedule last year. However you look at it Portland needs to come out strong and not concede the first goal early and mentally be ready to take the home team's best shot.
Big D: What player that Dallas fans may not be familiar with could have a big impact on Saturday?
Besides Kris Boyd the player who will have the biggest impact, but most likely be almost unnoticeable, is Diego Chara. Chara is the motor in the middle of the park and is usually the outlet for the wings when their attack has been bottled up. He also, despite his stature, wins a lot of tackles in the middle of the field and really disrupts the passing lanes. Chara is a true box to box midfielder who has a lot of influence over how the Portland Timbers play. Despite all that he does Chara usually does not get the assist and does not have the flashy game Kalif Alhassan has nor does he score like Boyd but Chara will always pop up at the start of a key play and you will hear his name often when it comes to a break-up of an attack.
My projected starting line-up: Gk- Troy Perkins CB- Eric Brunner, Hanyer Mosquera RB- Lovel Palmer LB-Rodney Wallace CDM-Jack Jewsbury CM-Diego Chara RM-Kalif Alhassan LM-Eric Alexander ST-Kris Boyd and Jorge Perlaza