Another game day. Well, maybe not just another game day. After all this is a Cascadia Cup match and that, in itself, is something that makes tonight's match just a little more noteworthy than traditional games. There's a bit more adrenaline. Perhaps even a little more brazen raucousness from the fans.
No matter what we think it might be, the one that that it absolutely is is important. Not just for the three points in the regular season standings, but for local and regional bragging rights. This is the Portland Timbers' chance to solidify itself as the lead in the Cascadia Cup race.
So, with that said, let's take a look at each side:
Assessing Our Team
The Timbers have been on a bit of an upswing since April. In fact, in the past five games they've only lost one of them. That's certainly not a bad record and one that I hope to see continue on. If the Timbers can keep winning at home and getting the occasional draw here and there, they'll manage to get into a good position by Summer's end. Additionally, for the first time this year, the Timbers have NO reported injuries throughout the squad.
Aside from that, there's nothing major to report on for the Timbers. While some players did get called up for national duty, most of them aren't leaving until early June so expect to see the same ol' same ol' line up.
One small bit though, expect to see Jack Jewsbury back in the right back position tonight as he has been back to full training recently and is, by all accounts, ready to go. It'll be nice to have him there instead of Mike Chabala who I think we can all agree is simply not a natural right back.
Here's my predicted starting line up:
Troy Perkins; Jack Jewsbury, Futty Danso, Hanyer Mosquera, Steven Smith; Franck Songo'o, Diego Chara, Lovel Palmer, Rodney Wallace; Darlington Nagbe, Kris Boyd
Assessing the Enemy
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get my usual preview interview up this week. Not sure what happened, to be honest. So my usual insight is a little dampened this go around. Still, Andy put up a fantastic preview article of his own which you should definitely check out if you get a chance.
Regardless, the Vancouver Whitecaps, quite unlike the Timbers, are on a bit of a downhill slide right now, although it could be a little early to consider them as such. Still, with 1 point earned in their last two league games and the fact that they lost their national championship cup with their starters against the worst team in the league a few days ago is probably also stinging a bit.
The big person to watch will not be either of the teams' Frenchmen, but rather their speedy Korean right winger Lee Young-Pyo who, by all accounts, has had a tremendous season so far in Vancouver. While he is a little old at 35 years, his experience in the Netherlands and with Tottenham Hotspur makes him a dangerous player and one that Rodney Wallace and Steven Smith will have to contend with all night long.
I've already explained the importance of this match due to the Cascadia Cup, but even in terms of the regular season tonight's game is much more important.
First, this will be the last regular season game heading into the 3 week break. Whatever happens tonight will set the tone for the break and we certainly don't want the guys dwelling on what went wrong for too long.
Second, during the week our Western Conference buddies all did the Portland Timbers another big favor by either drawing or straight up losing. This gives the Timbers yet another chance, as they had last weekend, to leapfrog a few teams. A win tonight will put the Timbers over both FC Dallas and Chivas USA and put them within a single point of the Colorado Rapids with a game in hand. Additionally, it'll also put them within 3 points of overtaking the Vancouver Whitecaps.
So, yeah... BIG GAME!
Tonight's match kicks off at 7:00 PM at Jeld-Wen Field and will be broadcast on ROOT SPORTS.