The Portland Timbers kick off the first of their three matches in the Rose City Invitational today, taking on the team that everyone loves to hate, the San Jose Earthquakes. While not a rivalry game per se, the Earthquake just have so many things to dislike; Chris Wondolowski's pregame strut around the pitch, Steven Lenhart's in-game antics, some general thuggery among their supporters, and the recent dispute over the Timbers' partnership with Sacramento Republic FC all come to mind.
Let's take a look at the teams:
Just as the Timbers were starting to look like their starting eleven might be gelling quite nicely, Diego Valeri had to go an recover from his off-season surgery, returning another attacking threat to the Timbers' already potent line-up. How will the Timbers fit Valeri onto the pitch in the wake of a series of excellent performances from Gaston Fernandez at the number ten spot? The Caleb Porter refused to say, but with Valeri slated to potentially play 30' against San Jose, we could soon find out.
Earlier this week, Porter stated that the Timbers intend to treat this just like any other game, dressing eighteen players and making only three substitutions. With the likely sub for Valeri coming in the 60', we should get a good idea of Porter's preferences outside the presumed starters and high value injured players like Rodney Wallace and Steve Zakuani. Likely culprits for the team's three subs include Schillo Tshuma, Frederic Piquionne, and Ben Zemanski.
San Jose Earthquakes
The Earthquakes have struggled to get their preseason into gear so far in 2014, posting three losses in three preseason games, including a 3-1 match against the Houston Dynamo that they lost after scoring the first goal of the match. Through the transitive property of soccer matches, as the Timbers beat Houston 2-0 while in Tucson at the start of the month, the Timbers should be able to beat the Earthquakes 5-1.
Although the Earthquakes have had some truly prodigious roster churn this off-season, likely a large part of their pre-season struggles, they have managed to keep the centers of their attack and defense intact. Up top the Earthquakes return the highest scoring forward in Major League soccer, Wondolowski, and the highest fouling forwards in MLS, Lenhart and Alan Gordan. In the center of the defense, San Jose brings back Victor Bernardez and USMNT regular Clarence Goodson at centerback, as well as the sturdy defensive midfielder in front of them, Sam Cronin.
If the Timbers do not disassemble the Earthquakes then something has gone terribly awry. A score of 5-1 is similarly unlikely, but the Timbers have looked strong in the preseason, while San Jose have looked anything but. This could be the ideal time for the Timbers to build confidence ahead of the season opener on March 8th.
Watch it on: Streaming on Timbers.com
Kick off: 5:00 pm at Providence Park in Portland, OR
Portland Timbers Preseason Record: 2-0-2
San Jose Earthquakes Preseason Record: 0-3-0