Five - nil. The last time the Portland Timbers set foot in FC Dallas stadium, they left it with a -5 goal differential tacked onto their stats. The FC Dallas team from last year, which wasn't really all that great in the first place, sufficiently booted the Timbers back to Portland. This year, the Texas team is better. They're at the top of the tables and seem to have an eye for the Supporters' Shield trophy.
But this isn't the same Timbers squad as last season either. After going undefeated in seven games, it would be unwise for Dallas to assume another multi-goal drubbing is going to come.
Here's the breakdown:
The big news heading into tomorrow night's match is the obvious absence of Mikael Silvestre. We all knew it was a possibility, especially given the Timbers' current luck with central defenders, but it didn't hurt the team any less when it happened.
Silvestre's absence means that the central defensive positions will be secured by Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Futty Danso. Both players have gotten plenty of minutes at this point in the season so at least we don't have to worry about them being match fit.
Pa Modou Kah, for his part, isn't expected to arrive until next week. So, at the very least, the Timbers will have to do without any sort of back up until after their game against Chivas USA at home on Sunday.
Aside from that most everything else should remain unchanged.
I have heard some small amount of chatter that we could see Frederic Piquionne get his first start of the season. This would presumably be in place of Ryan Johnson who missed practice the other day. According to Will's training report, Porter did say he expects Ryan to be available by tomorrow's game, but didn't say whether he would start.
Regardless, Piquionne starting would certainly be interesting, and a good way to throw a wrench in Dallas' pre-game tactics. Piquionne is a bigger variable than Ryan at this point.
Here's my projected starting lineup:
Donovan Ricketts; Jack Jewsbury, Futty Danso, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Michael Harrington; Will Johnson, Diego Valeri, Diego Chara; Darlington Nagbe, Ryan Johnson (or Piquionne), Rodney Wallace
What more can you say about Dallas right now? The team is currently on a tear of the regular season having lost just a single time, and tied twice. That puts them 3 points in the lead with 20 points, with two games in hand against the New York Red Bulls and a game in hand against Sporting Kansas City. This team appears to be the real deal rather than just a hot streak.
One player that might be a little recognizable to Timbers' fans is, of course, Kenny Cooper. The big striker came in second for MLS's Golden Boot last season with the New York Red Bulls. Since then he has been traded to FC Dallas where he's been playing second fiddle to Blas Perez, who's netted 3 himself this season and seems to be the current front man. That said, expect Cooper to still get the start up top with him.
The most interesting bit of news is that, in FC Dallas' previous game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, defender George John was subbed out due to injury in the 45th minute. Since then, there's been little word about whether the team's big central defender will play tomorrow. The most recent bit of news by way of Big D Soccer has it that John missed yesterday's practice due to a virus. Will he actually start though? I have no idea.
Andrew Jacobson, an FC Dallas midfielder, is also reported to be injured, though his return in time for tomorrow's game seems much more likely than John's at this point.
The Timbers have proven they can go on the road and stand tall against teams perceived to be their betters. FC Dallas should, hopefully, be no different. That said, there's a lot going against the Timbers on this one. The loss of Mikael Silvestre is certainly going to hurt and the reputation FC Dallas has against them at home won't help matters much. Luckily, this year's 2013 squad isn't the type to give up so expect a rough and tumble type game with plenty of chances from both sides.