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Portland Timbers @ Philadelphia Union Match Preview: Road Wary

The Portland Timbers travel to Philadelphia to take on the Union in a game that the Timbers need to win to keep up with Real Salt Lake.

Steve Dykes

The Portland Timbers take off to the east coast once again, only this time their opponents are the Philadelphia Union. The last time the Timbers won a road game on the east coast was against D.C. United, May 25th. That said, I'm not sure if we should be using that club as any sort of standard for how the Timbers are doing on the road. At this point, I think everybody expects to win against D.C. whether at home or on the road.

Here's the breakdown:

Portland Timbers

The Portland Timbers are coming off an impressive win against the LA Galaxy at home where Andrew Jean-Baptiste managed to get the game winner late in the second half stoppage time. Such a victory will surely add to both AJB's and the team's confidence, especially considering they went down 1-nil before coming back to win the game. That said, tomorrow's match is not a home game and it's also against a Philadelphia Union side that is hot.

The big news heading into tomorrow's match is Will Johnson's condition. Our own William Conwell reported during this week's training that W. Johnson was back at practice with the Timbers after suffering from an illness out of his Canadian national team camp. Since Canada bowed out of the Gold Cup the Timbers' captain will not return. But whether he plays tomorrow or not isn't entirely known mostly because the extent of his illness was never revealed. For what it's worth he has not been listed on the injury list.

In other news, Pa Modou Kah has served his one game suspension and should be available for the Timbers to use against the Philadelphia Union. The question, however, remains whether the Timbers should use Kah or the more reliable Futty Danso instead. It's a tough choice. Kah has had some great games, but his performance against the Columbus Crew was a disaster. In his absence, Futty has showed he can be a reliable centerback. One thing's for certain, either Futty or Kah will start, not both. Andrew Jean-Baptiste's spot in the lineup is solid.

Finally, the only missing Timbers player is Rodney Wallace who remains with Costa Rica after the team finished second in their Gold Cup group, behind the USMNT. His absence will no doubt give Kalif Alhassan another chance at breaking into the starting lineup.

Here's my predicted starting lineup:

Donovan Ricketts; Jack Jewsbury, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Pa Modou Kah, Michael Harrington; Will Johnson, Diego Valeri, Diego Chara; Darlington Nagbe, Frederic Piquionne, Kalif Alhassan

Philadelphia Union

The Philadelphia Union are a bit of an enigma at the moment. Figuring out their play style, their tactics, and how and why they win, lose or draw games is proving to be a challenge. Just to give you an example, in their last five games the team has won twice, scoring 3 goals in each game, tied twice in 2-2 affairs, and lost once in an away game against the Houston Dynamo. One thing that does seem to be consistent, however, is that the Union doesn't lose at home often.

The big news coming out of the Union's camp is the return of their leading goal scorer, the youngster Jack McInerney. The 20 year old most recently joined the USMNT roster for the Gold Cup, but was sent home once the team moved on to the quarterfinals, undoubtedly so the Nats could bring in veteran reinforcements. Still, if Jack's season stats are anything to go by, he'll be a handful for the Timbers' defense. In 17 games played so far this season, he has 10 goals to his name.

Aside from that, it appears the Union will be their usual selves. The team currently only has one listed injury n Michael Lahoud (listed as QUESTIONABLE). As far as I can tell, however, Lahoud isn't a linchpin piece to the squad.

Here was their starting lineup against Chivas USA:

Zac MacMath, Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo, Jeff Parke, Raymon Gaddis, Michael Farfan, Brian Carroll, Sebastien Le Toux, Leonardo Fernandes, Danny Cruz, Conor Casey

McInerny's return could leave Casey sitting on the bench.

Final Thoughts

At near full strength, the Timbers should have a solid chance in Philadelphia tomorrow. While the Union are perhaps a stronger team than in previous years', they're not without their own faults. One thing I've heard is that they tend to rely on their physicality a bit too much. If the Timbers can use this to their advantage, we could see them return home with three points. The important part, however, is not allowing the Union's physical play to dominate the match. Against another physical team, the Columbus Crew, the Timbers did not fare as well.