The Portland Timbers are on the road again this weekend, following up their hard-won road point against FC Dallas with a visit to the Bay Area to take on the San Jose Earthquakes.
The 'Quakes are undefeated at home so far this season, posting a 2-0-2 record at Avaya Stadium — home of the world’s largest outdoor bar — that has planted them firmly in the playoff picture to start the season.
While neither the ‘Quakes attack not their defense stand out as being among the league’s elite, the side have been strong enough on both sides of the ball to present a well-rounded front that finds a way to regularly grab a point or three. While they are not on the same level as Dallas or Sporting Kansas City, the Quakes have the third best defense in the West to date, allowing just ten goals through nine games.
The offense, however, is somewhat less productive, notching just nine goals to date -- meaning that the Timbers have more individual goal scorers (10) than San Jose have goals scored. Chris Wondolowski is once again leading the line for the ‘Quakes and has bagged a pair of goals so far this season, so tracking him and his ability to find space in the box will be important, but so far the majority of the Quake’s goals have come out of the midfield and defense with Anibal Godoy and Florian Jungworth both tied with Wondo as San Jose’s leading scorers.
Much of this scoring imbalance comes from teams taking Wondo out of the game with strong play from the back line and he should not be ignored — misses like this only come along once per world cup cycle — but Diego Chara and David Guzman will need to be wary of giving up too much space in the center of the pitch to the bona fide long range threats that San Jose have in the center of the pitch.
In the attack there is significant uncertainty surrounding the Timbers as both Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri are recovering from injuries. Coming into the weekend neither player has ben confirmed to be in or out and the absence either or both would greatly change up the dynamic of the Timbers’ attack.
It seems likely that if only one of the pair is out we will see a very similar lineup to what the Timbers ran out last weekend against Dallas, bringing in Dairon Asprilla on the wing and bringing the opposite side winger inside to capitalize on his service.
In the absence of both Nagbe and Valeri, however, the Timbers will need to bring Darren Mattocks into the XI as well, giving the team several different potential looks both in formation and approach. Since joining the Timbers, Mattocks has shown himself to be capable of playing both on the wing or up top giving the Timbers the rare opportunity to play either their usual 4-3-3/4-5-1 or move into a 4-4-2 with Mattocks working off the hold up play of Fanendo Adi.
Regardless of who the Timbers have on the pitch, breaking down San Jose will be no easy proposition. The Quakes play a packed in style and many of the chances that teams generate against them tend to come from outside the box, meaning that chances for Adi to get in close and do work will be few and far between. Instead it will be incumbent for the likes of Guzman, Chara, and Sebastian Blanco to take their chances and threaten from range, giving the forwards a chance to attack any spilled rebounds.
Watch it on: KPDX
Where: Avaya Stadium in San Jose, CA
When: Saturday, May 6th at 7:30 p.m. PT
Portland Timbers: 5-2-2, 2nd place in the Western Conference, 2-2 draw at FC Dallas
San Jose Earthquakes: 3-3-3, 5th place in the Western Conference, 1-0 win at Minnesota United