For the first time in four weeks the Portland Timbers will be playing at home. It's been so long that I almost feel like I'm going to the home opener again. Needless to say, I'm excited!
In any case, the Timbers will be facing off against the Houston Dynamo, a team that has gone all the way to the MLS Cup two years in a row, though, admittedly, they barely squeezed into the playoffs in 2012. Still, the Timbers have yet to actually beat Houston in their three appearances over all (1 home, 2 away) having most recently drawn them 0-0 at Houston.
Here's the breakdown:
The Timbers will no doubt be relishing the fact that they're playing at home again. Having gone on a two game road streak, with a bye week thrown in between, the guys returned home with two draws. Not bad, but certainly without the wins they desperately needed. A solid home crowd game could be just the thing they need to get their first win.
The big question heading into the match is whether or not we'll see Mikael Silvestre reprise his starting center back position. According to Will's most recent training report, it's certainly a possibility. According to him, Silvestre is back in full training after sustaining an adductor srain during training last Friday which forced him to miss the Colorado Rapids away game. I don't know about you, but I sorely missed his presence during that game.
Aside from that, it should be business as usual.
Diego Valeri, who's been playing as a right attacking forward recently on the road, is expected to start again in the central attacking midfielder role as that was his position against both the New York Red Bulls and Montreal Impact home games. Additionally, based on my own analysis, it became obvious that that's where he is most effective. I'll certainly be pleased to see him play there.
Caleb Porter, for his part, will probably employ his usual 4-3-3 type formation that allows for plenty of movement off the ball and Ryan Johnson starting up top, though I certainly wouldn't mind giving Frederic Piquionne a chance at it. Maybe put Ryan on the right? I'm not sure.
Finally, I'm expecting that we'll see Ryan Miller in the right back position instead of Ben Zemanski. Not that Zemanski has been terrible, but with three points on the line and the Timbers desperately needing a win, I think they'll opt for a more defensively solid right back.
Here's my predicted starting line up:
Donovan Ricketts; Ryan Miller, Mikael Silvestre, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Michael Harrington; Will Johnson, Diego Valeri, Diego Chara; Kalif Alhassan, Ryan Johnson, Darlington Nagbe
Pretty much the line up we saw against New York.
If you have yet to do so, check out my recent interview with the guys at Dynamo Theory for some insight into their squad.
Houston is an interesting team to figure out. On the one hand, they've been to MLS Cup twice in a row, but they also failed to earn the trophy both times. Additionally, in 2012, while they made it to MLS Cup, they just barely squeaked into the playoffs, earning that fifth and final Eastern Conference spot.
This year's Dynamo squad as a few players we should all be familiar with.
The first is, of course, Eric Brunner, though don't expect him to start. To date, he's only played a single game for the Dynamo and hasn't been so much as subbed on in recent games.
The second is Mike Chabala, but again, he's not an important player for the Dynamo yet. My guess is that his signing was a pure depth move prodded on by the fact that he was a Houston fan favorite during his time there before joining the Timbers.
Finally, there's Adam Moffat. He's more Dynamo now than he was ever a Timbers guy, but he's a steady starter at the team and will probably start in Portland tomorrow.
Of course, the primary guy to look out for his Brad Davis. Expect their captain to start and create all kinds of issues for the Timbers back line as he has in the past.
Here's their expected starting line up:
4-2-3-1: Tally Hall; Kofi Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell; Jermaine Taylor, Corey Ashe; Adam Moffat, Ricardo Clark; Oscar Boniek Garcia, Giles Barnes, Brad Davis;
Will Bruin appears to be out. Sorry for the mix up guys. This was the line up I was given by our Houston Dynamo sister site.
There's no reason why the Timbers can't win tomorrow night. Sure, the Dynamo have won 3 of their 4 games and they've been bolstered by key additions like the return of Ricardo Clark and Giles Barnes is having a great season so far, but there's nothing overwhelming about them, in my opinion. So long as DIego Valeri can move effectively through the midfield and the Timbers' forwards can get a shot on target every once in a while it should, at the very least, prove to be an exciting game.