The Portland Timbers come into tonight's match against CD Olimpia needing to win at home if they are going to stay on track to advance out of the group stages of the CONCACAF Champions League. Olimpia has already played both of their matches against the other member of the group, Alpha United, racking up a +7 goal differential in the process.
With tonight's game following quickly on the heels of Saturday's 2-2 draw against the Colorado Rapids, the Timbers will need to make some changes to their lineup as they look to stay relevant in both the CCL and the MLS playoff run-in. The squad selection will be given even more weight by the fact that this Saturday the Timbers face off against the Vancouver Whitecaps, their most direct competition for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
At the center of the Timbers' lineup will be Will Johnson, who was held out of the lineup last weekend following the birth of his second child. Johnson will likely partner with Ben Zemanski in the holding midfield role, although it is possible that we could see Diego Chara play alongside him.
Up top, the Timbers will have an easy selection to make if they decide to continue their forward rotation policy, inserting Maximilliano Urruti for Fanendo Adi and substituting one for the other between the 60' and 70'.
The Supporting cast in the attack will be a different story, however, as players like Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe seem unlikely to start against Olimpia. Instead, Gaston Fernandez will almost certainly be given the reigns to the attack and will work with players who have been in and out of the 18 this years; probably seeing some combination of Kalif Alhassan, Steve Zakuani, and Michael Nanchoff deployed on the wings.
One regular starter who could get a run out here is Rodney Wallace, whose ability to bounce back between games has served the Timbers well over the last two years. However, Wallace will have played
all 90' most of the match against the Rapids on Saturday after coming back form his appearance with the Costa Rican National Team, and will be a vital component to the team when they take on Vancouver this weekend, so the Timbers may decide to hold him back.
On defense it hardly seems to matter who the Timbers send out, given some of their recent displays, but they have a solid core of players from which to choose. If the Timbers were to rotate their whole defense, we would likely see a lineup of Michael Harrington, Norberto Paparatto, Danny O'Rourke, and Jack Jewsbury. However, the Timbers have had significant success on the wings recently with Alvas Powell and Jorge Villafana manning the fullback positions and we could see one or both of them given double duty this week, although Powell looks like the more likely to be given a rest following his appearance with the Jamaican National Team last week.
Regardless of who is in the lineup, the Timbers will need to buck their home difficulties in this match, as they cannot put themselves in a position where they need to get a win in Honduras to advance out of the group stage in the CCL. Olimpia has not traditionally fared well against MLS teams, going 0-3-1 in the CCL against them, but the Timbers will still need to relearn out how to win in Providence Park, a lesson which would serve them well against the Whitecaps this weekend as well.
The visitors will be the first ever to come to Providence Park in CONCACAF Champions League play. However, Olimpia is a side used to being at the top and one with several members of the Honduran National Team on board. In the side are ten players who have been capped for their country, nine Hondurans and a Guatamalan. Olimpia even sent five players to the 2014 World Cup as Anthony Lozano, Carlos Will Mejia, Javier Portillo, Romell Quioto, and Noel Valladares all represented Honduras in Brazil.
A club steeped in winning tradition, Olimpia will likely bring their full first team to Portland, with no intention of making things easy on the Timbers.
Now six games into their season, Olimpia are looking much more dangerous than they were in their first match of the 2014-15 CCL, their 1-0 win in Guyana over Alpha United. Now on a three game winning streak in their domestic league, which they won last year, Olimpia are definitely a team on form and are scoring goals for fun. In those last three matches, Olimpia have 4-0, 4-1, and 5-0 as they have begun their charge back into the first place spot they occupied last season.
Interestingly, Olimpia have been getting those high scoring wins with production from all over the field. Oscar Alfredo Guerrera, an attacking midfielder, and Quioto, a forward, are leading the way with three goals each, but they are joined on the score sheet by seven other players over these first six games of the season, including Brazilian defender Fabio de Souza, who has scored twice.
Watch it on: FOX Sports 1
Kickoff: 7:00 PM PT at Providence Park
Portland Timbers: 1-0-0 in CCL, 12th place in Major League Soccer
CD Olimpia: 2-0-0 in CCL, 2nd place in Liga Nacional de Futbol