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Portland Timbers vs. Houston Dynamo Match Preview

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Timbers continue their packed schedule of games today as they host the Houston Dynamo, facing off against the recent Western Conference transplants for the second time this season.

The last time the two teams met, a 3-1 Timbers loss in Houston, the Timbers had only won three games, a total they they have equaled in the four games since then -- or exceed if you count the U.S. Open Cup.

Portland Timbers

Coming off their fantastic and ridiculous U.S. Open Cup win over the Seattle Sounders, the Timbers have have four days to rest and recover before this match, but a 120 minutes slug fest against your rivals is a draining thing and we willl certainly see some changes from the XI that took the field against Seattle.

In the center of the Timbers' attack, the Timbers will almost certainly be giving the start to Gaston Fernandez after Diego Valeri's 60 minute run out against the Sounders. Valeri, making his return from a rolled ankle, is only four appearances removed from completing his recover from the torn ACL that kept him out for the start of the season. Fernandez, meanwhile, has had several strong showings as the Timbers' playmaker, particularly when allowed space to combine with his teammates.

In particular, Fernandez has excelled when paired with Maximiliano Urruti up top for the Timbers, with the pair each scoring a goal assisted by the other in the Timbers' current run of wins. As such, if Fernandez gets the start against the Dynamo it seems that Urruti will as well, particularly in light of Fanendo Adi's ninty-plus minute battle against Chad Marshall, one of the league's premier defenders, on Saturday. Urruti comes into this one fresh, but he also allows the Timbers to avoid matching up Adi against David Horst as the former Timber seemed to have Adi's number the last time the two teams played.

Looking back down the spine of the team, Timbers fans should also expect to see changes to the Timbers' pair of holding midfielders. After strong matches from Jack Jewsbury and George Fochive against Seattle, Caleb Porter will certainly have to think twice about mixing things up here, but the Timbers' two first choice midfielders, Diego Chara and Will Johnson, are available and rested ahead of this one and they will have to get the start against the Dynamo. the pair will fit in particularly well the pairing of Fernandez and Urruti in the attack as Johnson and Chara's penchant for getting forward and combining with with the forwards and attacking midfielders certainly exceeds that of Jewsbury and Fochive.

Bringing in Chara and Johnson as a midfield pairing is always a decision with high potential rewards but big risks associated with it as well. With neither player inclined to stay at home, they rely on their ability to balance each other to keep gaps from developing in the Timbers coverage of the pitch that opponents can exploit. In Johnson's few appearances so far in 2015 it has seemed that he and Chara have jumped right back into the level of understanding that they had in 2014 (if not 2013), but how the two play off each other remains an important thing to watch going forward, particularly in light of any adjustments Johnson has made to his game following his tibia-fibula break last year.

Finally, the Timbers could look to make a number of other switches. With Liam Ridgewell healthy again, he will likely step back into the starting lineup, although whether he replaces Norberto Paparatto or Nat Borochers remains to be seen. While Brochers has been the Timbers' first choice to play alongside Ridgewell this season, the aerial abilities of Paparatto, as well as several standout appearances when called on this year, could earn the big man another start. Other potential changes include bringing on Ishmael Yartey for either Darlington Nagbe or Rodney Wallace; or giving a rest to either of the fullbacks as both Alvas Powell and Jorge Villafana have major minutes so far this season.

Sorry to have to cut this short, but between work and a cloud-save issue (careful working on multiple machines, kids) I don't have time for the Dynamo side of things.

Match Information

Watch it on: KPTV FOX 12

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. PT at Providence Park in Portland, OR

Portland Timbers: 6-5-4, 5th place in the Western Conference

Houston Dynamo: 5-5-5, 7th place in the Western Conference