The Timbers held practice at Jeld-Wen Field this morning, starting off with a ten minute warmup period before moving closing practice to the press.
After practice concluded and the press were let back out onto the field, most of the Timbers usual starters were no longer on the pitch and Caleb Porter addressed a group of the team's younger players on the far side of the pitch. The birthday boy, Diego Chara, was the only presumed starter not already in the locker room.
David Horst made an appearance to talk to the press, confirming that he would be playing alongside Mikael Silvestre tomorrow. Horst has been training with the starters this week and, since the return of Silvestre from the adductor strain that prevented him from playing against the Colorado Rapids, Andrew Jean-Baptiste has been playing with the reserves.
In the press scrum Horst sounded ready and eager to take to the field as a part of the Timbers' fourth different line-up at the back in five games.
They have done a great job incorporating me into it. Mikael, he speaks English so communication won't be a problem. I just have to learn his tendencies and how he plays... It will be great to finally get a chance to play with Mikael tomorrow.
Caleb Porter, once he had finished talking to his players, addressed the press as well, giving his thoughts on what the Dynamo bring to the table.
I think the biggest challenge is that they are confident. They are a mature team, they've had success. They have a lot of the same guys back from last year's team that had success, so that belief, that confidence, I think is the biggest challenge when you play a team like this. They believe in what they do, they don't waver in what they do home or away.
Porter also gave an assessment of what his side would need to do to secure a win against Houston.
Be aggressive and proactive and get on the front foot and press them and attack them. It is going to be a bit of two alpha dogs looking to go toe to toe and in the end we hope that we are going to be the one that comes out on the winning end.
We are figuring out how to piece the group together in a way where you get enough in the attack, but also get enough balance defensively. I think that we have evolved every single game in that regard.
Predicting the Line-up
Earlier this week Caleb Porter emphasized the need to build consistency in the team's performances, something that a stable line up will help with. This outlook makes it seem unlikely that we will see many changes to the starting eleven from last week, leaving Kalif Alhassan and Frederic Piquionne outside the starting eleven once again. Barring an injury that requires a change be made, however, it seems very likely that they, along with Rodney Wallace, will once again be late game substitutes.
While we have heard from the
horse's Horst's mouth that there will be a change at the back as he and Mikael Silvestre will take the field together for the first time this season, the positioning of the midfield remains a question mark. In particular the positioning of Diego Valeri as a right winger who drifts inside or an attacking central midfielder who is given license to roam will have to inform the rest of the line up.
Given the Dynamo's propensity for attacking up the outside, and particularly for pushing their fullbacks, Cory Ashe on the left and Kofi Sarkodi on the right, far up the pitch, I would expect to see Valeri nominally on the right wing once again, but often slipping inside as a second forward while Diego Chara picks up the lion's share of the defensive duties along the right flank.
On the Timbers' left we will likely see Darlington Nagbe back on the pitch as more of a left sided midfielder, covering that space and helping to contain Sarkodi. Nagbe was pulled at halftime last week thanks to an ankle knock, but Porter seemed confident in him today, saying Nagbe is fine and that he had a good week of training.
Nagbe will likely get less support from Will Johnson than Valeri will from Chara on the opposite side as Johnson will look to stay central, win balls, and distribute, getting forward regularly and leaving Jack Jewsbury to support the defense in the same defensive midfield role that we have seen since his return from injury.
My predicted line up: Donovan Ricketts; Ben Zemanski, David Horst, Mikael Silvestre, Michael Harrington; Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury, Will Johnson; Diego Valeri, Ryan Johnson, Darlington Nagbe
Injuries and Absences
Bright Dike, Brent Richards, and Sal Zizzo did not practice today as all three continue the rehabilitation from their respective knee surgeries. Zizzo is likely still one or two weeks away from rejoining training, according to Caleb Porter, while Dike and Richards both have several months to go before their potential returns.
Hanyer Mosquera continued his leave of absence today, but caused quite a stir after tweeting that he is undergoing a physical in Bogota (read our story here).
Trialists and Guest Players
David Meves continued his time with the Timbers as a guest player today.