The Portland Timbers are back in town and ready to host the Houston Dynamo for their third game of the season. Both teams come into this match with two wins from two matches and will be looking to keep their records perfect in 2017.
For the Timbers, the injury bug has bit early this year and the side could be without several player in the back. However, like last week, several of the walking wounded are listed as questionable and could play in tonight’s match.
On the back line, Liam Ridgewell remains out after picking up a foot sprain following the Timbers’ week one win over Minnesota United FC. Ridgewell will be replaced for the second game in a row by new arrival Roy Miller. Miller’s first match with the Timbers was last week’s 1-0 road win against the LA Galaxy, in which he looked composed despite having practiced only twice with the team in the run up to the game.
At left back, Vytas Andriuškevičius remains in doubt for today’s match at left back as he recovers from a calf strain. The pressure is off the Timbers to hustle Vytas back, however, thanks to a stand-out performance from homegrown youngster Marco Farfan against the Galaxy. With Darlington Nagbe shielding him, Farfan looked capable on both sides of the ball, even when matched up against played like Galaxy designated player Romain Alessandrini. Where Farfan was limited, however, was in his contribution going forward, something that was likely a tactical decision by the Timbers as the youngster adjusts to the professional game.
Rounding out the injured players on the Timbers’ back line is right back Alvas Powell. Powell was called “day-to-day” going into the match against LA and looked like he was playing at less than full fitness. However, with a week to finish his recovery, Powell should be back to 100% for the Timbers and adding some of the width that was missing from the attack last weekend.
Of course, perhaps the most influential — and thus most worrying — potential absence along the back line is defensive midfielder David Guzman. After suffering a separated shoulder against the Galaxy (and narrowly avoiding a suspension for diving on the same play), Guzman is also listed as questionable for the Timbers coming into today’s match. The team’s new No. 6 is an aggressive ball-winner and a calming influence in possession, and to replace him the Timbers would likely turn to either Ben Zemanski or Amobi Okugo. Both are capable players in their own right, but neither bring the same level of quality as Guzman, and neither influence the game in the same way as the Costa Rican midfielder.
Playing a full match without Guzman for the first time since his arrival over the offseason seems like a daunting task for the Timbers, and would seem to necessitate a change in style, moving more toward the quick, counter-attacking play that the Timbers had some level of success with in 2016, rather than the possession oriented game that the Timbers have been angling towards, but have yet to fully implement this year.
The Timbers’ attacking group, meanwhile, remains intact, although Darlington Nagbe will depart for the USMNT’s World Cup Qualifying camp following the match. Nagbe, Diego Valeri, Fanendo Adi, and Sebastian Blanco have all shown off their chops early in the season and with a return home to Providence Park they should be set to have a big influence on this match.
The Timbers should do particularly well attacking down their right, where Blanco and the hopefully-fit Powell will be going at former Seattle Sounder Dylan Remick and Houston’s left-side center back, Leonardo. Remick has done well so far, playing ahead of DeMarcus Beasley in the Dynamo’s 3-1 win over the Columbus Crew last weekend, but he has never done enough to make a position consistently his own since joining the league in 2013.
Getting the width back in their play will be particularly important for the Timbers in this match as the Dynamo play with a packed in midfield, making it difficult for teams to go at them through the center of the pitch, something that the Timbers struggled with last week against the Galaxy. If the Timbers can get their full backs involved in the attack once again, that will pay dividends in chances created and give the side a good chance at retaining their perfect record.
Watch it on: ROOT Sports
When: Saturday, March 18th at 7:30 p.m. PT
Where: Providence Park in Portland, OR
Portland Timbers: 2-0-0, Beat LA Galaxy 1-0
Houston Dynamo: 2-0-0, Beat Columbus Crew 3-1