On Sunday, the Portland Timbers will host the San Jose Earthquakes in the first game of a home and away series. This means that the Timbers as well as San Jose will each have two opportunities to really learn and react to each sides' respective strategies. Last year we saw a similar scenario play out between the Timbers and the Colorado Rapids. The Timbers won their home game 1-nil and then lost in Colorado 3-nil.
Of course, the last time these two teams met it became quite the goal scoring frenzy with Ryan Johnson scoring a hat trick. Coming off an impressive home match against the Houston Dynamo, it will be interesting to see how Portland stacks up against a San Jose side that is somewhat in a downward spiral.
Here's the breakdown:
The Timbers are currently coming off a great result against the Houston Dynamo. In that game, the Timbers dominated for pretty much 75 of the 90 full minutes. And even during those 15 or so minutes in the first half when it seemed like Houston was the controlling team, the Timbers' defense was very proactive about getting the ball out of the danger zone.
The big news heading into the game on Saturday is the condition of Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Mikael Silvestre. Those of you who have been following Will's training reports will remember that both players sat out a couple of training this week with "heavy legs" and have only recently begun partial training once again. With David Horst out for a few months, Hanyer Mosquera likely gone for good it makes me worry a little bit. That's not to say that Silvestre and AJB are injured, but it's simply worrisome that they're back at full fitness yet. Luckily, since this game's on Sunday, not Saturday it will hopefully give them the little extra time they need to recover.
Speaking of injuries from last week, Diego Valeri is still undergoing league protocol with regards to concussions. While we don't yet know if he'll make the game, my guess is that the team will sit him out of Sunday's game just to be sure. Concussions are not something to be taken lightly. Instead, we'll probably see Darlington Nagbe slot into his spot, once again, with Kalif Alhassan playing in Nagbe's usual right attacking forward spot. It seemed to work out well against Houston, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Porter try it out once again.
There's not much else to report. Given Jack Jewsbury's performance against the Dynamo, I'm not expecting Porter to relinquish his spot to either Ben Zemanski or Ryan Miller for the game on Sunday. That said, without Brad Davis on the field, the league's best left footer, it will be interesting to see if Jewsbury is as effective.
Here's my attempt at a predicted starting line up, but based on how often Porter likes to change things up it's to be taken with a grain of salt at best:
Donovan Ricketts; Jack Jewsbury, Mikael Silvestre, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Michael Harrington; Will Johnson, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Chara; Kalif Alhassan, Ryan Johnson, Rodney Wallace
San Jose Earthquakes
The Earthquakes have endured a tough season so far and it appears to be largely injury-induced at this point, though don't be surprised of teams begin figuring out what made this team so hot last year as well.
The good news is that everybody's favorite San Jose man Steven Lenhart is looking questionable for the match. This means he won't be consistently hassling the Timbers' back line and won't draw a PK for a stupid mistake by Ricketts, which was embellished pretty heavily on his part. Even if he's deemed healthy, given how long he's been out I would say it's doubtful he'll get the start.
That said, Chris Wondolowski, their newest Designated Player and current top scorer with 3 goals this season is expected to start. He'll likely be starting along side Alan Gordon, a player who has a penchant for scoring in the last few minutes of a match.
Here was their starting line up last week. I don't have the pertinent information to make a guess as to what it could be this week:
Jon Busch; Dan Gargan, Victor Bernardez, Ty Harden, Justin Marrow; Shea Salinas, Rafael Baca, Sam Cronin, Ramiro Corrales; Alan Gordon, Chris Wondolowski
If the Timbers can earn three points on Sunday in the same dominating fashion as when they played against the Houston Dynamo last weekend it will hopefully serve as a confidence booster for the following weekend's game as well. The Timbers still have yet to win on the road. While a couple of draws aren't bad to start off the season, a solid away win would be really nice. What better way to prepare for that than by two convincing home wins to send you off. And, dare I say, should the Timbers win home home and away games they'll officially be on a winning "streak."
That's something we haven't said in a while.