Third game of the season and, so far, the Portland Timbers have had a great start to the season by winning their home opener and getting a crucial draw against Western Conference rival FC Dallas, a team that handily beat the Timbers in Dallas last year, 4-nil. While 6/6 points would be optimal right now, 4/6 certainly isn't a bad number to have either.
Heading into today's game against the New England Revolution, however, should the true test of the Timbers road readiness. Not many expected a Timbers win against FC Dallas which made the draw that much sweeter. Against New England, though, many are expecting a win which means a draw would be disappointing and an outright loss would leave many of us wondering if the Timbers really are able to consistently win on the road... or at the very least it'll inspire soccer pundits around the nation to revive the thought.
Needless to say, I think we all expect the Timbers to be heading back home with 3 extra points in their pocket.
Assessing Our Team
Not too much has changed with the team since last week so, as such, there's not too much to report on here. I hope you've read Ryan's preview article on the what the Timbers need to do to win against New England as it should give you a good idea of what we're up against today. Aside from that, I'm expecting a business as usual type of game today.That said, one thing to note is that a number of players have been removed entirely from the Timbers' injury list. I mentioned yesterday that Lovel Palmer was listed due to an illness but that seems to have been cleared up. Additionally, Franck Songo'o, Jorge Perlaza and Kris Boyd have all been cleared of their minor problems that kept them on that "Probable" section of the list. The only player, aside from the usuals who will be out for at least a few more weeks, is James Marcelin who is listed as "Questionable" due to a hamstring strain.
What this means is that, for the first time this season, we could see a fairly full starting XI and bench which doesn't leave any huge gaps should a player go down. We already know that Franck Songo'o most likely will not be starting but is planned to come off the bench, so keep an eye out for him.
Here's my predicted starting line up:
GK: Troy Perkins
DEF: Lovel Palmer, Eric Brunner, Hanyer Mosquera, Mike Chabala
MID: Kalif Alhassan, Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury (c), Eric Alexander
FWD: Jorge Perlaza, Kris Boyd
Assessing the Enemy
If you haven't yet done so check out my preview interview with Steve Stoehr of The Bent Musket. In it he provides a great deal of information on the New England Revolution as well as some information on who we could be seeing play today.
Suffice it to say though, the New England Revolution have not had a great start to the season. Despite going 6-1-0 (W-L-D) in the pre-season, they're currently 0-2-0 in the regular season with absolutely zero goals scored and a -4 GD. These are stats I enjoy because they give confidence, but remember that stats don't make games.
Additionally, Benny Feilhaber has been officially listed on the injury list as "OUT" so all that speculation and almost-confirmations we've seen over the last few days are pretty much, well, confirmed. Don't expect to see New England's star attacking center mid today which is only good news for the Timbers.
The big worry heading into today's game is, as usual, Shalrie Joseph. His play determines how well the team does and his defensive skills are some of the best in MLS. Against Philly we saw time after time Kalif, Chara and Eric Alexander rip through the defense which is, in part, what made them so successful. Shalrie will be a much bigger obstacle that Philly, fortunately, didn't have.
Again, three points are necessary today. Not because we're in the play off push. Losing today won't jeopardize anything in the long run or anything like that. However, the Timbers are currently playing under a shadow of their road record from last season. They showed they could stand up away from home last week against FC Dallas, but today they need to prove that they can dominate away from home as well lest we all slip back into the nightmare that is over-analyzing punditry.
Oh and one last thing, if you didn't notice we are no longer using the CoverItLive! live blogging system. You guys voted and we listened! We are continually looking to offer you guys the best methods for discussing the game and participating in discussion so if you ever want us to check something out just let us know.