The Portland Timbers are on the road again this weekend, this time facing off against an opponent a little bit closer to home: the LA Galaxy. With issues persisting throughout the squad, the Timbers are in need of some strong performances on both sides of the ball if they want to move up above the red line earlier than they did in 2015.
As it has been since the start of preseason this year, the first question for the Timbers is the team's left back situation. With Chris Klute now available for selection -- and not having played in last night's T2 match -- the team now has three viable options at the position that has vexed them since the departure of Jorge Villafana in the offseason.
Klute, who was the player that most assumed would be the team's starting left back this season, has yet to see the field for the first team, instead playing several matches for T2 as the Timbers look to build up his fitness. Now, however, it looks like Klute should be fit enough to play with the first team and get a crack at the starting left back spot.
Klute's competition at left back, Zarek Valentin and Jack Barmby, are both players that can play the position but seem to be more comfortable elsewhere. Valentin, despite improving over time in his three starts at left back, never quite fit the position, particularly with the Timbers looking to get attacking play from their fullbacks. Barmby, meanwhile, had the opposite issue in his one start for the team, looking better in the attack and shaky on defense -- perhaps not surprising as he adjusts to the travel and speed of MLS.
With all that in mind, it seems likely that Klute will be given the start against LA as the Timbers continue to look for their optimal defensive lineup.
Further up the pitch, the Timbers will need to take a long look at their attacking group as they try to jump start their goal scoring going into a grueling week in which they will play three games in just seven days.
In recent weeks the Timbers' attack has sputtered, creating neither the quantity nor quality of chances that they are accustomed to. Looking somewhat disjoined, the Timbers have failed to combine and break open opponents in the same way that they were able to late last season.
The Galaxy, despite a bevy of injuries to attacking players, have a very strong and experienced back line. Boasting the likes of Ashley Cole, Jelle Van Damme, and Robbie Rogers, and shielded by Nigel de Jong at holding midfield, the LA back line is going to be difficult for the Timbers to break down it they are not on form, something that the similarly struggling Vancouver Whitecaps saw in their 0-0 draw against the Galaxy last Saturday.
Of course, where teams have had success against the Galaxy so far this season is on the counter: exactly the strategy that the Timbers should thrive on. With Rogers and Cole both apt to push forward and Van Damme and his partner at center back, Daniel Steres, not the most mobile of defenders, the Timbers should be looking to get in behind the Galaxy back line.
Fanendo Adi will be asked to take quite the beating from the physical play of Van Damme, who has accumulated three yellow cards and eight fouls in just three games, but if he can hold off the LA bruiser and link up with Diego Valeri and the Timbers' wingers then the chances that the Timbers struggled to generate against Orlando should start to come.
Don't forget to check out Lost Fervor's Prediction Thread.
Watch it on: FOX Sports 1
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. PT at StubHub Center in Carson, CA
Portland Timbers: 1-2-1, 9th place in the Western Conference
LA Galaxy: 2-1-1, 4th place in the Western Conference