After going so long without regular Portland Timbers action, tomorrow's match against the Houston Dynamo came up quickly. The Timbers will take on the other team to come to the Western Conference tomorrow evening in their second match of the 2015 preseason.
After playing the team's first choice side for 45' against Sporting Kansas City last weekend, the Timbers are set to give their starters a longer run out in tomorrow's match against Houston. This time around expect the Timbers starters to see the field for 60' and the reserves to come on for 30'.
While both groups will likely look very similar to what we saw last Saturday, the reserves will almost certainly see some changes made, and there is some potential for changes among the starters as well.
In the Timbers' first team the defensive group of Adam Kwarasey, Jorge Villafana, Alvas Powell, Nat Borchers, and Norberto Paparatto will likely remain intact. While Jeanderson got some positive mentions from Caleb Porter over the last week, particularly with regard to his ability to get forward, it was Villafana's ability in one on one defensive situations and chemistry with Rodney Wallace that put him a step ahead of the new signing.
The defense in the second group could, however, undergo some changes. While Jake Gleeson stepped in for the second 45' last weekend, it seems likely that Andrew Weber will get some minutes this time around. Additionally, the back line could see a number of changes, including the potential insertion of second round draft pick Andrew Thoma at left back or moving Jack Jewsbury to right back and Taylor Peay to centerback.
The holding midfielders also look likely to remain constant with the first team. Ben Zemanski and Diego Chara had no issues resuming their partnership from last season in the preseason opener. While Nick Besler could be the wild-card to break into the first team after a solid first match and general praise from Porter, it does not seem particularly likely that Porter will do much experimenting this match, instead saving that for Tuesday's planned short period for the first team against the San Jose Earthquakes.
For the second team, the shape that the holding midfielders will take will largely depend on how the Timbers decide to deploy Jewsbury. While they could try another 4-3-3 setup with three holding midfielders like they used against SKC, this time around expect the team to move back to two holding midfielders, likely some combination of Besler, George Fochive, and Jewsbury, with Danny O'Rourke an outside chance for the position as well. Another wrinkle that the Timbers could throw in would be the possibility of playing Besler as a true defensive midfielder and taking a look at how he functions in a single pivot setup.
Finally, the Timbers' attacking foursome seems like the most likely place for any changes to come, if any are going to be made at all. Without Diego Valeri in the lineup as he recovers from surgery, the Timbers will need to have other players continue to fill the void in the center of the pitch. Last weekend the Timbers inserted Gaston Fernandez into Valeri's spot, but allowed him to play further up the pitch as a second striker behind Fanendo Adi, while Darlington Nagbe regularly pinched into the center of the pitch and filled the space left vacant when Fernandez was further up the pitch.
The Timbers could switch things up by moving Nagbe into the center of the pitch in a more "full-time" capacity, and bringing on Dairon Asprilla to provide a much more direct option on the right wing. Asprilla has been regularly mentioned as a player that will push to make the XI and this seems like a real opportunity for him to do so. As mentioned above, however, Tuesday seems like the day for experimenting and a much more likely time to see this switch.
The other possibility for change in the Timbers' attack could be the insertion of Maximiliano Urruti for Adi at the top of the Timbers' formation. The young Argentine came into camp fit and ready and did well to create chances in the second half against SKC, including earning the free kick that Michael Nanchoff converted for the match's second goal. Adi, as a designated player and a huge physical presence, is going to be difficult to displace out of the starting XI, but Urruti is certainly skilled to push for the spot.
As far as the attacking group for the second XI goes, this one is very much up in the air. The Timbers could give a run out to several players that did not see the field last weekend, including draftees Kharlton Belmar and Christian Volesky, and second-year Generation Adidas signee Schillo Tshuma. Also, should the Timbers decide to give Thoma a look at left back, it is possible that Jeanderson could be moved up into the left wing spot, a position that he has played previously and seems comfortable in.
Like Kansas City, the Dynamo appear to still be putting the pieces together this early in the preseason. With new coach Owen Coyle, formerly of Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic in the English Premier League, at the helm, the Dynamo players seem to be playing not just for a spot in the starting XI, but also for their long-term future at the club.
That does not mean that Coyle has completely cleaned house since arriving over the offseason. Many of the old stalwarts from Dynamo sides of the past will be returning to BBVA Compass stadium in 2015 and will be available for tomorrow's match. How they will be assembled, however, remains a mystery.
In their first match of the preseason, played just two days ago on Wednesday, the Dynamo came away the 3-2 winners over the Earthquakes. The match featured two full XI's of Dynamo players, but unlike the Timbers, the Dynamo were not split into presumed starters and reserves, instead seeing a mixed side play in each group.
There have been a significant number of changes to the Dynamo roster since they last faced the Timbers in April of last year.
The Houston defense has survived the offseason mostly intact, but former Timber Eric Brunner decided to retire following yet another injury plagued season. In his place arrives Spanish centerback Raul Rodriguez, who could potentially partner with another former Timber, David Horst.
The Dynamo also made a big change at the back when they shipped off long-time keeper Tally Hall to Orlando City SC and picked up D.C. United's Joe Willis, taking him out of the shadow of Bill Hamid and giving him a chance to compete with Tyler Deric for the starting spot.
In the center of the park, Brad Davis and Ricardo Clark will still serve as the Dynamo's foundation, while newcomers like Argentinian youngster Leonel Mirando and MLS journeyman Nathan Sturgis will compete for the spots around them. Boniek Garcia and Luis Garrido, the Dynamo's contingent of Honduran midfielders, are currently away with their national team, but will likely make strong claims on their starting spots once they return to the team.
Finally, up top the pairing of Giles Barnes and Will Bruin will both be on the top of the pecking order to start the season, but will need to work hard in order to ensure their place when Erick Torres arrives fresh from his loan to Chivas de Guadalajara. Timbers fans will remember "Cubo" Torres for his days with Chivas USA and from the brief offseason excitement surrounding his long questioned return to Major League Soccer after CUSA dissolved.
Watch it on: streaming on Timbers.com
Kick off: 6:00 pm pacific at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, AZ