The Portland Timbers have not had much luck at home this year, including last Friday's 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City, but on the road they have been one of the league's most effective teams, putting up 1.42 points per game so far. If the Timbers want to make a push for a playoff spot, that road form will need to continue tonight as they head south to take on the LA Galaxy.
Following last week's pair of results, a win on the road and a loss at home, both against Sporting Kansas City, the Timbers are in a place that is hard to forecast. All year teams have been packing the defense at Providence Park and making the Timbers work to break them down, something that they have had little luck with when it comes to getting wins. On the road, however, when teams seems more inclined to go at the Timbers and open up the field of play, the Timbers have done better for themselves, posting three of their four wins this year as the away side.
Now, with the Timbers heading to LA where the Galaxy are 3-1-1 on the season, it remains to be seen what tactic the Timbers will run out, particularly in light of the heavy squad rotation used by the team recently. The Timbers, who are heading into a run of three games in ten days with next week's two matches against the Seattle Sounders, may look to change up their lineup yet again.
The defense, which was generally solid against Kansas City outside of the lone goal that the Timbers conceded, will need to see changes once against at the centerback positions as injuries have once again gutted the position. Pa Modou Kah, who has been suffering from achilles tendinitis, and Norberto Paparatto, who is recovering from an ankle knock, have both missed practice this week and were confirmed to be out by Caleb Porter after practice yesterday. With new defender Liam Ridgewell yet to join the team, that potentially leaves Rauwshan McKenzie and Danny O'Rourke as the Timbers' probable pairing in the center of the defense.
While O'Rourke has filled in well as a centerback since joining the Timbers he is more of a utility player. McKenzie, who has played in five matches for the Timbers this year, has see-sawed between good performances and weak ones.
In the attack, the Timbers have the opposite problem, with multiple players pushing for minutes at every position. The forward slot has been a competition between Fanendo Adi and Maximiliano Urruti, with Adi having cooled off since his blazing hot start in the league and Urruti continuing to chip in goals and assists, but Urruti appears to be out of the match as well, nursing a knock.. The rest of the attacking group remains a free-flowing set of possible line-ups with Diego Valeri, Gaston Fernandez, Darlington Nagbe, Rodney Wallace, and even Kalif Alhassan all making contributions in recent matches.
Any discussion of the Galaxy and their fortunes starts with Landon Donovan. The talismanic forward may not be lighting up the league like he did in his younger years, but Donovan is still on track to equal his output over the last few seasons, already having tallied three goals and three assists in eleven league games.
The man in front of Donovan, Robbie Keane, has been putting up some very impressive goal scoring numbers so far this season. Keane may have played one more game than Donovan, but that does not make his seven goals and four assists any less impressive. Perhaps the most dangerous part of Keane's game, his positioning and ability to drift away from defenders to find space, is as sharp as ever and the Timbers will need to avoid any of the simple errors that they have been prone to this season.
Beyond the Galaxy veterans, Gyasi Zardes has also emerged as a serious threat in the attack for LA. A young winger and forward who can score goals in bucnhes when called upon. So far this season, Zardes has scored three for the Galaxy, primarily coming off the bench in late game situations. With the physical tools to torment the Timber's fullbacks if not held in check, Zardes is a serious threat and one that the Timbers cannot neglect.
Watch it on: NBC Sports
Kick off: 8:00 PM PT at the Stubhub Center in Carson, CA
Portland Timbers: 4-5-8, 7th place in the Western Conference
LA Galaxy: 5-3-5, 6th place in the Western Conference