The Portland Timbers are in the Lone Star State and are set to take on the Houston Dynamo in today's match. With the Timbers looking to hold off the pack and finish above the red line in the race to playoffs, a result against Houston would go a long way toward securing a playoff berth for the side.
Of course, the Timbers have yet to win on the road in 2016 and have lost their last four matches away from Providence Park (five if you count their CCL loss to Saprissa), so even in a match against the Dynamo, who have only won four times at home this season, there is a certain level of apprehension surrounding the match. Still, a team finishing a season without a road win is a rarity and a team in playoff contention doing so is all but unheard of.
For their part, the Dynamo are a team full of players looking to earn their spots for next season. The Dynamo have been a middling team since Wade Barrett took over as interim head coach mid-year, but were doomed to last place by their horrendous start to the year under now-departed head coach Owen Coyle. After starting out the season going 1-5-2 in their first eight games, the Dynamo have become a defensive, hard to beat team under Barrett and are in their best for of the year currently, having taken eight points in their last five games, including wins on the road against the San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake.
The Timbers are also in good league form, having strung together back to back wins for the first time this season in their 1-0 win over RSL and 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union.
Much of that success can be credited to the team’s recent lack of injuries and consistent lineups. With the Timbers getting their optimal XI on the field for the last two matches, the side have shown some of the defensive steel that defined last season’s cup run.
Unfortunately for Caleb Porter’s side, their current run of fielding the same starting XI for a whopping two games in a row must now come to an end as the Timbers will be without the services of left back Vytas Andriuškevičius due to a rub injury that he picked up in last weekend’s match against the Union. In his place the Timbers will likely bring in veteran defender Jermaine Taylor to fill in out on the flank.
This change will likely limit the Timbers somewhat in their ability to bring numbers down the left, but with Darren Mattocks playing on that wing in the attack, it should not be a significant obstacle. Mattocks tends to take on defenders with his speed and trickiness on the ball rather than trying to combine with his defender. Rather, it will be central players like Diego Valeri and Diego Chara who will feel the loss of Vytas most accutely as the Timbers’ first choice left back is a constant and reliable target for a quick pass to maintain possession and will rarely get caught up with the ball at his feet, instead preferring to have his head up and play a ball immediately back to an open player.
The other player that the Timbers will be missing in this match is Lucas Melano and while the young Argentine has not been wowing Timbers fans as of late despite his recent naming to MLSsoccer.com’s 24 Under 24 list, he remains a significant weapon off the bench, bringing pace to this Timbers side that few defenders can match.
Neither absence should affect the Timbers’ approach to this match, however, as the team should look to present a strong back line and high pressure from the forwards, breaking quickly down the pitch and creating one on one matchups between Mattocks and Dynamo right back Sheanon Williams or Fanendo Adi and Dynamo center back Raul Rodriguez that the Timbers can profit from.
Watch it on: KPDX
Kickoff: 6:00 p.m. PT at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, TX
Portland Timbers: 11-11-8, 5th place in the Western Conference
Houston Dynamo: 6-11-11, 10th place in the Western Conference