The Portland Timbers may not be putting together a perfect preseason after their 1-1 draw against the Houston Dynamo, but the preparations for the 2015 season continue apace as the Timbers prepare to take on the San Jose Earthquakes tomorrow morning.
The match against San Jose will be the Timbers' final game as a part of the Desert Friendlies in Tucson, Arizona. The team will continue training in Arizona for several days before returning to Portland to resume training at home on the 16th.
Following on the back of Saturday's 60' run out of the team's starting XI, the Timbers will give the reserves the first 60' of tomorrow's match and rest most of the starting XI. The final 30' of tomorrow's match will give the Timbers a chance to give some minutes to the players who have yet to make a preseason appearance.
The personnel in the Timbers' second XI have remained fairly consistent during the Desert Friendlies this year, but there have been several changes between the two matches so far.
First, the Timbers' second XI against Sporting Kansas City:
Jake Gleeson; Taylor Peay, Anthony Manning, Danny O'Rourke, Jeanderson; George Fochive, Neck Besler, Jack Jewsbury; Dairon Asprilla, Maximiliano Urruti, Michael Nanchoff
Next, the Timbers' second XI against the Dynamo:
Andrew Weber; George Fochive, Taylor Peay, Danny O'Rourke, Jeanderson; Michael Nanchoff, Nick Besler, Jack Jewsbury, Dairon Asprilla; Omar Cummings, Maximiliano Urruti
From the first game to the second, the second XI moved from playing a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2, both departures from the 4-2-3-1 that we have come to expect from the Timbers over the last two season. The 4-4-2, at least, was similar in style to the setup of the first team this year, with Urruti stepping into a similar role to Gaston Fernandez as the second striker behind Cummings.
The personnel changes that the Timbers did make were a combination of both experimental and functional ones. The swap of Weber in for Gleeson was fairly straightforward as both keepers will have important roles to play this year behind Adam Kwarasey.
The removal of Manning and the insertion of Cummings, meanwhile, allowed the Timbers to get a number of different looks at players. The inclusion of Cummings, a veteran MLS striker who has sometimes struggled with injuries in recent years, forced a realignment of the side as Urruti will be a big part of the first team this year and needs to get minutes. With less room in the midfield, the Timbers instead got a look at George Fochive at right back and Taylor Peay at centerback, positions at which both players lined up at times last season.
What tweaks the Timbers will make for this last match are unclear, but it seems likely that the Timbers will bring a lineup closer to their second match than their first. A longer look at Cummings will be useful as the Timbers look to make further decisions about their roster, while players like Besler, Peay, and Fochive will need to be further evaluated as to their presence with the first team or potential loan to Timbers 2, which starts its own preseason when the Timbers return to Portland.
The most likely change to the lineup from Saturday's match seems to be the swap of Fochive and Jewsbury, giving a longer look at Fochive in the center of the pitch while getting some idea of how Jewsbury has held up as a right back. Bringing Jake Gleeson back on to play the first 60' also looks probable.
The players set to come on for the remaining half an hour, all those who have made limited or no appearances in the preseason so far, will providing an interesting departure from the mostly known quantities of the Timbers' first and second XI's.
The keeper position for the final 30' will almost certainly be held by Weber or Gleeson, whichever keeper does not start the match. The defense, meanwhile, is much more of a question mark. Manning will likely make an appearance here at centerback, while fellow 2015 draft pick Andrew Thoma will line up at left back. Right back and the second centerback remain up in the air.
In the midfield, the second XI is similarly up in the air. While the Timbers wide players aplenty in Schillo Tshuma, Kharlton Belmar, Christian Volesky, and assumed T2 signing Fatawu Safiu, none of those players are generally thought of as central midfielders. Safiu, the biggest unknown of the group, has been spotted at a more central position in Timbers practices and could man the center of the pitch.
Finally, the potential attacking group reads much like the midfield, with all the above players at least moonlighting as forwards or attacking wingers at some point in their development. Volesky and Belmar were out and out forwards in college, while Tshuma and Safiu are known primarily as wingers.
San Jose Earthquakes
The Earthquakes' offseason has been marked by the return of the prodigal coach as Dominic Kinnear, the coach of the 'Quakes before they left to become the Dynamo in 2005, has come home to take over the team. Kinnear has long been one of the model coaches in MLS, consistently crafting the Dynamo into post season contenders in the Eastern Conference.
With Kinnear's arrival has come the typical re-working of the roster as he seeks to mold the club into his image. Gone are a number of the 'Quakes' hard tackling midfielders and bit players, while Kinnear has picked up a number of fast, wide players with familiar MLS names like Sanna Nyassi, Marvell Wynne, and Leandro Barrera coming in to the side.
In the early going of the preseason, the Earthquakes have yet to find a win. Starting off the year with a 3-2 loss to the Dynamo and following it up with a 1-1 draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps, the 'Quakes have generally started a group that could easily be their starting XI at the beginning of the season.
Missing from the 'Quakes' lineups so far have been the side's pair of designated player forwards, Chris Wondolowski and Innocent Emeghara. Wondolowski has been in camp with the USMNT, while Emeghara is likely still waiting for his transfer to be cleared.
Watch it on:
Streaming on Timbers.com No video available. Follow @TimbersFC or @JamieBGoldberg for updates.
Kickoff: 9:30 am pacific at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, AZ
Portland Timbers: 1-1-0 in preseason
San Jose Earthquakes: 0-1-1 in preseason