The Portland Timbers did well to earn a solid point against the LA Galaxy last Wednesday. While it's always nice when a team can win the full three points on the road, taking a single point is certainly better than nothing. Additionally, with LA being nearly at full force, it was certainly a solid "win" for the Timbers. Today, however, the Timbers will host the Colorado Rapids at home. There's no conceivable way today that anything less than three points will be considered good enough, especially if the Timbers want to retain their spot in the hunt for the Supporters' Shield.
Here's the breakdown:
Heading into today's match there are certainly some changes that we can expect in the lineup. First and, I think, foremost will be Michael Harrington's absence. Head coach Caleb Porter confirmed to Will yesterday that Harrington will not see game time today. So who replaces him? I'm not actually sure because Harrington has played and started every game this season.
We could see Jack Jewsbury slide over to the left as we've seen in the past, allowing Ryan Miller to play right back. We could also see Rodney Wallace reprise his left back role even though we're now used to seeing him play up top. Or we could see something entirely new. It's an interesting situation for the Timbers and one that I'm not very comfortable with considering their depth at that position isn't very deep.
Speaking of Rodney Wallace, the left wing extraordinaire is back with the Timbers and is fully expected to start today. In what position, however, we can't be sure. However, Caleb Porter made it clear that he was happy to have him back, and happier that Wallace didn't really get played by Costa Rica:
"I'm actually in some ways glad he didn't play as many games. He's been training a lot, but he's not chewed up from playing in a bunch of games."
Not that you don't want to see your players get meaningful international minutes, but with the current Timbers weariness, you have to think that Wallace's relative restfulness will come in handy.
Finally, on the news front, Futty Danso is also expected to start tonight. While he hasn't been outright confirmed by Porter, he was confirmed as being "available" for today's game. My guess is that he starts with fellow Gambian Pa Modou Kah.
Here's my predicted lineup:
Donovan Ricketts; Ryan Miller, Futty Danso, Pa Modou Kah, Jack Jewsbury; Will Johnson, Diego Valeri, Diego Chara; Darlington Nagbe, Ryan Johnson, Rodney Wallace
Colorado is a bit of a mystery team right now. After starting out the season slowly, the team had a bit of a surge in the standings, bringing them on level with the LA Galaxy at one point. That said, they've now hit a bit of a downturn. The team has won just a single game in their last five with their last two games being outright losses.
The big news, seemingly, from the Colorado camp is that they'll travel without midfielder Martin Rivero, a player who has featured prominently in recent games for the Rapids since recovering from a preseason injury. That said, two other key midfielders for the Rapids are expected to be back in the starting line up today: Atiba Harris and Hendry Thomas. Both were suspended for the Rapids' last game. How all this factors is Oscar Pareja's tactics is unknown to me.
Aside from that there's not a lot of news in the Rapids department. I would love to be able to tell you who the expected starters are, but even that's a bit of a mystery to me. Most players have a few games under their belt, but few have a significant amount. Drew Moor and Brian Mullen are the only two players I can say with confidence will take the field tonight, though even then Pareja mentioned a shift in the defensive backline given recent results.
Real Salt Lake went on to beat the Seattle Sounders 2-nil last night. While I always enjoy seeing the Sounders lose, this time it was actually to the Timbers' detriment. Such a victory for RSL now puts them at the top of the league and the Western Conference. For the Timbers to continue their hunt for that top spot they will need a win today. And even then, though they'll be tied on points, I believe Salt Lake will technically retain the top spot.