The Portland Timbers are set to take on Guyana's Alpha United today in CONCACAF Champions League play. The Timbers should feel confident about a victory here after beating Alpha 4-1 in Guyana last month, but with several injuries and this mid-week match coming sandwiched between two league games, who the Timbers will line up is still in question.
Who is not available?
The Timbers' first-choice starting line-up, with few exceptions, is pretty much set at this point and we saw them play just three days ago in the team's 3-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps. Those players will not get the start against Alpha United and can safely be ruled out. Even Alvas Powell, who has covered an amazing amount of ground in the last few weeks, will have to get some rest.
Timbers starters vs. Vancouver: Donovan Ricketts, Alvas Powell, Pa Modou Kah, Liam Ridgewell, Jorge Villafana, Will Johnson, Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri, Rodney Wallace, Fanendo Adi
The Timbers also have a contingent still on loan with the Sacramento Republic consisting of Jake Gleeson, their starting keeper, and Steven Evans, an occasional substitute. While the pair could be recalled for the match today, it seems unlikely that they will be as Sacramento is set to play in the USL Pro Championship on Friday.
Finally, the Timbers have several players who are potentially unavailable due to injuries. While practice reports to get the dirt on where they are have been few and far between recently (my bad, folks), we have seen that both Steve Zakuani and Kalif Alhassan were listed as being injured over the weekend and neither appeared in the 18 for the Timbers.
Who is available?
Of the lineup that the Timbers rolled out against CD Olimpia last week, the majority of the players are available for this match. The likely loss of Kalif Alhassan in the midfield will require some reshuffling of the lineup, given the lack of a straight like-for-like option to plug in in the left/center attacking midfield role.
Timbers Starters vs. Olimpia: Andrew Weber, Danny O'Rourke, Norberto Paparatto, Rauwshan McKenzie, Michael Harrington, Jack Jewsbury, Will Johnson, Kalif Alhassan, Gaston Fernandez, Michael Nanchoff, Maximiliano Urruti
Without Alhassan, the Timbers are left with only three of the four spots in their attacking group filled by Michael Nanchoff, Gaston Fernandez, and Maximiliano Urruti. While the Timbers could plug in youngster Schillo Tshuma, he has not factored for them since much earlier in the year and seems an unlikely option here.
Instead we may see a more advanced for Ben Zemanski, playing further up the field on either the right wing or in the center of the pitch, and bringing in George Fochive to partner with Jack Jewsbury in the holding midfield role. An alternative here could be to bring in Taylor Peay at fullback and push Danny O'Rourke up into the midfield.
Who do we wish was available?
It would be great to get Darlington Nagbe on the pitch for a game that has the potential to be a bloodbath and, in a relatively low-stakes setting, push him toward goal.
Michael Orr and Chris Rifer had a very thoughtful break down of what Nagbe is bringing to this Timbers team in the episode of Soccer Made in Portland posted earlier today, but despite any good points they may have made, we all just want to see Nagbe score some goals; goals like this.
Who would you play in tonight's match?How would you plug the Kalif-sized hole in the lineup? Who do you wish would play, even though you know they probably will not? Share your thoughts down in the comments.