As pointed out at NASN by Kelly McClain the Timbers' offensive numbers on average have started to climb in the last few games. A lot of analysts and people who casually follow this league probably look at the schedule and see Portland Timbers at New York and automatically write off Portland's chances. This could be true but Portland has an, sometimes frustrating, ability to play to the level of their competition and this could once again prove true on Sunday.
Portland will win if: David Horst and others stop ball watching a crucial moments in the game. As a defender there is almost no way to play a perfect defensive game as an individual but as a unit it can happen. If Portland can play well as a defensive unit, covering for each other and generally playing defense the way you are supposed to, Portland could pull the smash and grab off. Of course in order to pull it off you have to have a keeper who comes up with the big saves to keep the opposition out of the net.
If Donovan Ricketts can come up with big saves and continue to marshal the back line in to some semblance of a defensive unit Portland can get a point and maybe 3 points.
Portland will lose if: The Defense continues to have mental lapses and ball watches. Someone has to take charge back there and tell the other defenders what to do. It was Eric Brunner, or at least appeared to be him based on the defensive numbers with him compared to with out him, and in his absence no one has stepped up to be a vocal leader on the back line. If no one steps up Portland are opening themselves up for a major beat down in New Jersey. The Redbulls are just too good of a team to have mistakes against and not get punished.
Portland will win if: Franck Songo'o is back in the line-up and continues to be the creative player he has shown in previous games. With Songo'o back this will also help get Darlignton Nagbe more involved in the attack and if he continues to bounce back from the first half slump he was in Portland may be able to create enough chances to put the pressure in the New York Defense.
Portland's last game was the worst game for Diego Chara in a Timbers uniform and that cannot happen again if Portland wants to have a chance to win. If we see the Chara who is all over the field breaking up plays and applying high pressure Portland will be able to starve Thierry Henry of balls and thus limit the Energy Drinks chances of scoring.
Portland will Lose if: The Energy Drinks get any kind of production from Tim Cahill and company. New York's midfield may now be just as scary as the Galaxy's and this means Portland's midfielders also have to track back to help out the defenders. If the midfielders are lackadaisical in their approach to defense New York will shred Portland's defense.
Portland will win if: Kris Boyd actually does what he is paid to do as he has missed a couple of sitters. Of course even higher profile strikers like Fernando Torres have gone through these kinds of spells and soemtimes it just takes time to break out of their funks. Hopefully tomorrow is the day for Boyd.
Portland will lose if: Well there are a lot of reasons Portland could lose but I would like to point out just one:
Look at that hair man! It is amazing and almost looks like he has had it colored and permed. If Portland's attacking players gets mesmerized but that beautiful head of hair Portland will lose for sure. (Anyone else thinking 70's police sitcom when looking at the picture?