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Portland Timbers @ DC United Match Preview: Beware the Underdog

The Portland Timbers take flight to the capital of the United States to take on struggling DC United.

Jonathan Ferrey

Two very different teams will play each other Saturday night. One from the West coast, the other from the East. One undefeated in 10 games, the other winless in 9 games. The Portland Timbers, for their part however, aren't necessarily the powerhouse team that they appear. Against the Vancouver Whitecaps they were visibly struggling to contain a team that was thought to be worse than they.

Here's the breakdown:

Portland Timbers

The big news heading into Saturday's game is, once again, focused on the defensive backline. Futty Danso, the club's mainstay in that area has been suspended due to accumulation of a red card against the Vancouver Whitecaps. While many thought it was an unfair card, it does not appear that it will be reversed. I'm not even sure if the Timbers tried to get it reversed.

In any case, due to Futty's absence, we'll most certainly see at least one new face in the backline, possibly two. As we know Pa Modou Kah was signed a couple weeks ago. There's nothing from Will's recent training reports to suggest that he shouldn't be playing this weekend. Additionally, the recent signing of Rauwshan McKenzie should add further depth. Whether he starts ahead of Andrew Jean-Baptiste or not remains to be seen. My hunch tells me, however, that Porter will want at least one Timbers-experienced player in one of those two positions.

The only other bit of news is Darlington Nagbe quasi-injury he picked up against the Whitecaps. I am happy to report that it does not appear to be an issue. Nagbe is not listed on the injury report, nor has he been mentioned in Will's most recent training report. Expect to see him start in his usual right winger position.

Nothing else is really jumping out at me as being as issue ahead of Saturday's game. Here's my predicted starting line up:

Donovan Ricketts; Jack Jewsbury, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Pa Modou Kah, Michael Harrington; Will Johnson, Diego Valeri, Diego Chara; Darlington Nagbe, Ryan Johnson, Rodney Wallace

DC United

As usual, before I begin, I recommend reading my preview interview with Adam Taylor of SB Nation's DC United site Black and Red United. In it he gives up some insider information on just what's happening with the capital's MLS team.

Looking at the team itself, DC United is something of an enigma right now. Everything about them heading into the season made it appear as if they would at least be a mid-table club. However, 11 games in (for them) and it would appear that everybody was way off. Some of this could boil down to injuries, but it still seems like there's a bigger problem at the root to all this.

But first, let's talk a bit about Dwayne DeRosario, the league MVP a couple seasons ago. DeRo is an impact player for DC who hasn't been making much of an impact at all so far this season. Still, according to Adam, DeRo took a while last season to really start making the kind of impact we all expect. Could Saturday be his coming out party for the season? I don't know, but I certainly wouldn't underestimate him.

On that note, DC does have two other prominent players returning from injury: Nick DeLeon and Chris Pontius. Both should feature prominently in a squad that could be righting the ship after a home draw against Sporting Kansas City.

Here's Adam's expected starting line up:

Bill Hamid; Chris Korb, Ethan White, Dejan Jakovic, Taylor Kemp (R); Perry Kitchen,Nick DeLeon; Kyle Porter, Dwayne De Rosario (C), Chris Pontius; Casey Townsend

Final Thoughts

It would be very easy for the Timbers to expect three points out of this match. It would be equally as easy to underestimate DC United. Most fans around Portland probably have these expectations. I am, however, a bit more conservative. DC United, as bad as they have been this season, are playing below their talent. Expect them to be desperate for a home victory and play with a renewed sense of determination after the return of two key players. If the Timbers team think they can slack off and run circles around a squad perceived to be weaker, they could end up losing or getting another draw, neither of which sounds like a desirably scenario at the moment.

I would also like to remind everybody that the Timbers in 2012 pulled off a similar feat against a league leading Sporting Kansas City at home.

What do you think about Saturday's away game against DC United?