Road games are an important part of every successful team in MLS history. There's no scenario these days where simply winning at home can earn you a trophy. First of all, you can't count on the fact that the Portland Timbers will even win all their home games, as they haven't even won a single one yet, but in a league with 19 teams and 34 games split into 17 home and 17 away games, it would become a statistical anomaly for a team to lose all there home games (51 points) and lose all their away games to still make the playoffs.
I guess what I'm trying to say is... the Timbers need to win road games, starting on Saturday.
Here's the breakdown:
The Timbers had a bye week this past weekend and, as such, there's not much more for us to report on them. It's always tough having to sit through an empty week because you get to see other teams advance or falter but your own team remains stagnant.
That said there has been some developments. Four of the Timbers' players had international duty, so at least they saw some action, including Donovan Ricketts who first held Panama to a 1-1 draw in Jamaica before falling to 2-nil in Costa Rica. Will Johnson and Futty Danso each saw full minutes with their respective sides, but they all lost as well, unfortunately. Ryan Johnson did not play this past weekend.
Looking ahead to the Colorado away game, I think it's safe to say that we'll see a similar line up as we saw against the Seattle Sounders as it seemed to work out fairly well for the team. This includes the use of Jack Jewsbury, once again, as a deep seated central defensive midfielder.
The question, as usual, will be who takes the top spot. Does Caleb Porter go with his usual man Ryan Johnson, or does he try and mix it up by throwing Frederic Piquionne in the top spot for a game? At this point, Piquionne has to be nearing match fit readiness.
Finally, one other question mark is Darlington Nagbe. If you've been following Will's training reports you'll know that he missed most of last week with an ankle injury. While he appears to be back in full training now, Porter has refused to either confirm or deny his availability for the match on Saturday. Who would take his place if he is unavailable? Kalif Alhassan, potentially, who saw no time against the Seattle Sounders.
Here's my predicted starting line up:
Donovan Ricketts; Ben Zemanski, Mikael Silvestre, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Michael Harrington; Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury, Will Johnson; Diego Valeri, Ryan Johnson, Darlington Nagbe (or Kalif!)
The Rapids have not been particularly kind to the Timbers in recent years, of course the Timbers have never really been a strong road side so it's probably not that surprising. Still, the Colorado Rapids are a very different team than we are used to. Key players such as Conor Casey, Omar Cummings and Jeff Larentowicz are no longer with the team at the same time as others such as Pablo Mastroeni, Brian Mullan and even Drew Moor are getting older.
That said, it's not as if Colorado has been completely quiet during the off season. They spent significant capital to acquire players such as Edson Buddle from the LA Galaxy, Nick LaBrocca from Chivas USA, and even Portland's own Danny Mwanga from the Timbers. The former of which, Buddle, is looking like he's expected to see time this weekend, if not as a starter than as a mid-late substitution.
The good news in all of this is that Colorado has yet to find its momentum. With four games played they only have a single point to count after a n away draw against rivals Real Salt Lake. That said, their three losses haven't been blow out affairs. In each of their games against FC Dallas, the Philadelphia Union and LA Galaxy they've lost by a single goal. So anybody expecting their defense to be in tatters will be disappointed.
I've emphasized this point enough, but with 9 goals having been scored against the Timbers in three games at Colorado, it's time for some payback. The Timbers don't need to go on a goal scoring frenzy, but they need to stand up and show they're not an easy target whenever they visit. So far I don't see how Colorado fans can't expect anything else from Saturday's game, but they can change that... starting this Saturday.
UPDATE: The Timbers have caught a bit of a break. MLS has suspended Colorado's Drew Moor for two games. Moor has been seen as an instrumental player for Colorado in past games. His absence will certainly help the Timbers.