When the Portland Timbers last faced off against Chivas USA, the Goats were in dissarray. A promising start to the season had completely fallen apart and the 3-0 defeat to the Timbers was just one in a series of bad losses for the side. The team that the Timbers will take on this evening is not that team. Chivas are still far from the class of the league, but having gone 3-1-1 in their last five games at home, they have made some serious strides toward turning their team around.
Here is what you need to know about the two teams:
In the space of one week the Timbers have gone from an injury riddled side making trades to put somebody on the bench to a team with selection issues at several key positions. Since last weekend, the Timbers have gotten Alvas Powell, Ryan Johnson, and Donovan Ricketts back from international duty; Ben Zemanski back from suspension; and Futty Danso and Diego Valeri back approaching match fitness. All of these returns set up key questions at the forward and right back positions.
At the top of the Timbers' formation, Jose Adolfo Valencia is coming off of a match in which he was a driving force for the Timbers and picked up two assists in the process. However, Timbers' scoring leader Ryan Johnson, who will be well rested after not seeing the field for Jamaica during his recent call up, and new arrival Maximiliano Urruti are both potential options at forward as well. Urruti is probably the least likely to get the start, having just joined the team and coming off a long break before resuming his training with Toronto FC one month ago.
At right back the Timbers have a similar conundrum. While first choice right back Alvas Powell is back in town, he is still recovering from an ankle knock that he took last Friday while with the Jamaican National Team and is questionable for today's match. If he is deemed fit, Powell is the Timbers' best option, but if he cannot go the Timbers will probably choose from either Ben Zemanski or Sal Zizzo. Both of the Z's has filled in serviceably at right back this season, with Zizzo doing so most recently in last weekend's match against Toronto.
Amongst all of these questions, the Timbers will be relieved to have the core of their midfield still available in Diego Chara and Will Johnson. After far too long without the pair lined up as holding midfielders, the Timbers were dominant in the center of the pitch last week against Toronto and will likely be again against Chivas.
Our expected Timbers line-up: Donovan Ricketts; Michael Harrington, Pa Modou Kah, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Alvas Powell; Will Johnson, Diego Chara; Rodney Wallace, Darltington Nagbe, Kalif Alhassan; Ryan Johnson
The man that everyone is talking about at Chivas USA these days is 20 year old striker Erick Torres. On loan from Chivas de Guadalajara, Torres has been pouring in the goals since his arrival, scoring seven times in nine games for Chivas USA. A strong player with an apparent nose for goal, Torres has thrived on service from the wings for Chivas as well as chipping in a few set piece goals thanks to his skill in the air. The Timbers defense will need to be marked up on him well as Torres is not prone to poor shot placement.
Another newcomer to this Chivas side is a little more well known to American soccer fans, Carlos Bocanegra. Although he is no longer getting regular call ups to the USMNT, Bocanegra has not lost the skill and leadership abilities that made him the US's captain in the 2010 World Cup. Since Boca's arrival in July, the Chivas defense has battened down the hatches and slowed the rate at which they have been giving up goals, particularly at home. Playing alongside MLS journeyman Bobby Burling, who just signed a contract extension this week, Bocanegra is the organizing force that the Goats have needed since the retirement of Claudio Suarez.
Our expected Chivas line-up: Dan Kennedy; Carlos Borja, Bobby Burling, Carlos Bocanegra, Marco Delgado; Carlos Alvarez, Oswaldo Minda, Edgar Meija, Bryan de la Fuente; Julio Morales, Erick Torres
The Timbers are still the better team here, but they will need to shut down Chivas's service from the flanks. Although Torres is dangerous any time he gets the ball, he really shines in the air. The best way for the Timbers to shut him down is to play their game and control the ball. If the Timbers can win the possession battle convincingly in this one they should be able to find a goal or two through and improving but not ironclad Chivas defense.
Watch it on: ROOT Sports
Kick off: 7:30 pm at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA
Portland Timbers: 42 points, 5th in the Western Conference.
Chivas USA: 25 points, 9th in the Western Conference.