The Portland Timbers are, once again, going to be playing the San Jose Earthquakes in regular season MLS play. It's weeks like these that make it a little difficult to write new and engaging headlines with stories that you don't already know because, well, we told them last week already. Still, there's reason to be excited. After all, after a convincing performance, if not a goal-heavy one, at home and the fact that the Timbers have never lost to San Jose the, we could see the Timbers' first road win of the 2012 season.
Here's the breakdown:
The big news coming out of Will's training reports is that Diego Valeri's return seems to be eminent. While head coach Caleb Porter has not directly stated whether he'll play or not, he appears to be back in full training and the official injury list has him removed as of the time of this writing. My guess is that we'll see Valeri back in the starting line up.
While some might think that the team has done well without him, his participation on Sunday will be a huge bonus for the team at large, I think. After playing the Timbers last week, you can bet that San Jose took notes and is trying to figure out how to combat a high possession, high attacking team like the Timbers. Valeri, due to his absence last week, is a bit of a wildcard. Aside from looking at past road games, there's no way for them to figure out how he'll play against them.
Looking back to the defensive back line, my guess is that we'll see Futty Danso pair up with Mikael Silvestre once again. Based on Will's reports it seems like Andrew Jean-Baptiste is still slowly getting back into the system. As of Wednesday, Jean-Baptiste wasn't training with the full squad so it seems doubtful he'll be ready for Sunday.
Beyond that, though, Futty had a fantastic game against San Jose last weekend. At this moment, there's no reason for him to not start regardless. He knows the kind of physicality that San Jose is going to throw at them and, I think, will be better prepared for them because of that. It remains to be seen who Silvestre's starting partner will be for the remainder of the year, but for this game I think I would prefer Futty.
Here's my predicted starting line up, though this being a road game and all, expect Porter to throw a curve-ball:
Donovan Ricketts, Jack Jewsbury, Futty Danso, Mikael Silvestre, MIchael Harrington; Will Johnson, Diego Valeri, Diego Chara; Darlington Nagbe, Rodney Wallace; Ryan Johnson
San Jose Earthquakes
Not much more to say about this team that we don't already know. Expect them to be physical. Expect them to try and bully their way around the match and into the net. Expect Steven Lenhart to attempt one of his patented dives in the box to earn a penalty kick.
The big news here is that Alan Gordon has been suspended for four games. One game for his red card while playing the Timbers and three more for his foul mouth aimed at Will Johnson. Stacey gave an in depth look at how this could shake up things for San Jose on Sunday. I highly recommend checking it out.
On that note, however, Gordon won't be the only one sitting out on Sunday. A quick look at the injury report shows that San Jose is a severely broken down team right now. With 12 players total on the injury report (seven listed as OUT and 5 as QUESTIONABLE) it's kind of impressive they've managed to hang in there so far.
One player who is still listed but is currently expected to play is Marvin Chavez. Think of him as San Jose's wildcard for us. While he's been out pretty much all of 2013, in 2012 he was credited as being a critical part of the Earthquake's success last year.
Additionally, reports are that Shea Salinas and Steven Beitashour could also see minutes, if not a full game on Sunday. If true, it would mark a return to a much healthier and impressive Earthquakes' side. It would also mean a radically different team than the team that played in Portland.
Both teams are hungry for a win on Sunday. Neither can really afford to sit back and lose either. With the Timbers in 6th place overall and 3rd in the Western Conference, they're probably feeling pretty determined to keep their lead on Western Conference rivals such as the LA Galaxy, Vancouver Whitecaps, Colorado Rapids, San Jose Earthquakes, and Real Salt Lake, each of whom are at 8 points total for the season, just 1 point below the Timbers. A loss on Sunday, while not detrimental to the season, could see them slide back down quite a bit.
What do you think of Sunday's game? What line up do you think would be most effective against San Jose? What if Chavez, Salinas and Beitashour are all back in the starting line up?