Reading all the vitriol about Gavin Wilkinson over the last few days you'd be forgiven for forgetting the Timbers' first game under the new interim coach was just two weeks ago. It might be more comforting, I suppose, for a Timbers fan to convince him/herself that it has been three or four weeks, considering the eleven goals the Boys in Green have leaked with Wilkinson at the helm.
But alas, it has been just 14 days -- 14 long summer days -- since Wilkinson first graced the west sideline as interim head coach. Since then the lads have performed dreadfully at just about every position, and against some of the weakest competition the team will have the good fortune to face this year. Forget the playoffs -- every game that goes by the team is more a lock on the wooden spoon, and we're all are losing our minds with frustration.
Tonight the Portland Timbers play a team that has hovered near the bottom of the Western Conference all year, yet the Timbers have failed to take points from them in two tries. Will tonight be any different?
Assessing our team
- Will Conwell has logged some informative reports on Thursday and Friday's training sessions
- Ryan Gates posted his optimistic take this morning on how the Timbers might finally break this losing streak
The good news for Portland is that they will be operating at close to full strength tonight at Jeld Wen Field, with the only absence being Eric Brunner. Though he is making positive steps towards returning to the lineup after suffering a concussion way back on May 26, getting back to match fitness will take some time.
One returning player who could possibly make an appearance this evening is Rodney Wallace, though it is unclear whether he would return as a defender or a midfielder. He had shown promise as a midfielder earlier in the season, before a string of injuries caught up with him. But with questions lingering at the left fullback position, it is entirely possible that Wallace might return to his old stomping ground.
Reading into Wilkinson's comments at training yesterday, there is a distinct possibility that Brent Richards might make his first MLS start. Richards, of course, is the Timbers' first home grown player, and he and Wilkinson have a long history, dating back to Richards' time with East Side United. His performance on the first team for the remainder of the season may go a long way in determining Wilkinson's future with the club.
Predicted starting XI:
Troy Perkins; Kosuke Kimura, Hanyer Mosquera, David Horst, Steven Smith; Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara; Franck Songo'o, Darlington Nagbe, Brent Richards; Kris Boyd
Assessing the enemy
I posted a preview of Chivas USA yesterday, and you can read more about Chivas at the really excellent SB Nation Chivas blog The Goat Parade. Alicia Ratterree wrote a defiant defense of her team's existence this past week -- it's worth a look.
The big news for Timbers fans is that Timber killer Ryan Smith is out of the Chivas lineup with some hamstring issues. That the absence of one player could have such an effect on our team's prospects is pretty depressing. But you know what? That's where we are.
On the other hand, Juan Agudelo could well make a return to the lineup after missing Chivas' last three matches. His speed and skill could more than make up for Smith's absence and bring further ruin to Portland's fullbacks.
Predicted starting XI:
Dan Kennedy; Ante Jazic, Rauwshan McKenzie, Danny Califf, James Riley; Blair Gavin, Ben Zemanski; Miller Bolanos, Nick LaBrocca, Juan Agudelo; Jose Correa
A fifth straight loss would be incredibly depressing and totally ruin my weekend. Don't lose, guys.
Tonight's match kicks off at 8pm at Jeld Wen Field in Portland, Oregon. Please keep in mind that the freeways are a mess due to the southbound I-5 closure, so make sure and plan accordingly.
If you can't get to the match you can watch it on ROOT Sports (a rare broadcast without John Strong, as he'll be covering Arlo White's absence on NBC Sports) or listen on 750 AM The Game.
Starting XI: Perkins, Smith, Horst, Mosquera, Kimura, Richards, Jewsbury ©, Chara, Nagbe, Boyd, Songo'o.
Danso, Purdy, Wallace, Alexander, Alhassan, Fucito, Mwanga
Starting XI: Kennedy; Jazic, McKenzie, Califf (C), Riley; Zemanski, LaBrocca, Romero, Cardozo, Bolanos; Angel
Bench: Melia, Villafana, Moreno, Townsend, Correa, Agudelo