The Portland Timbers are back home after a rough month of matches that saw the side take only five points from the last five games. Now, after a close away loss to their northern rivals, the Seattle Sounders, the Timbers will host their annoying southern neighbors, the San Jose Earthquakes.
The Timbers come into this match with their central midfield restored as Diego Chara makes his return from suspension and David Guzman is apparently recovered from a finger to the eye from Sounders forward Clint Dempsey, giving the Timbers back the glue that holds their attack together after two games without it. While Lawrence Olum — and later Amobi Okugo — did well at defensive midfield in a purely shielding role, the Timbers suffered from the lack of a linking force in the center of the pitch, whether that is Chara’s constant availability for a one-touch pass to free a player up or Guzman’s ability to distribute and switch the play with long, accurate passes out of the back.
Out wide, however, the Timbers will be without Darlington Nagbe due to a call up to the United States Men’s National Team. In his place, the Timbers will likely turn to first team regular Dairon Asprilla to man the right flank, moving Sebastian Blanco across the pitch into Nagbe’s usual position on the left. The Timbers could also turn to Darren Mattocks to fill in for Nagbe, but after the Jamaican winger was a scratch last weekend against Seattle due to a hamstring issue, it is hard to see him stepping in to a starting role.
Bringing in Asprilla could pay dividends for the Timbers if Blanco is able to cut inside from the left and combine with Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi in the attack, while opening up space for Asprilla to operate on the right. While Asprilla is generally not the fastest decision-maker with the ball in front of him, he is certainly capable of getting on the ball and driving to the end line to play a ball back into the box, a situation that will cause any team trouble. Creating good spacing to unbalance the Earthquakes back line will be important for the Timbers as the side looks to regain their attacking form from earlier in the season.
On the other side of the ball, the Timbers will once again need to be on the look out for Chris Wondolowski. The ‘Quakes leader in both goals (6) and assists (5), Wondolowski has continued to produce this season by finding space between and behind opposition center backs and taking his chances, making denying him service all the more important. In the Timbers’ last match against San Jose, an embarrassing 3-1 loss, Wondolowski scored twice for San Jose, both times taking advantage of gaps in the attention of the Timbers’ back line to get free.
Watch it on: KPTV, UniMas
When: Friday, June 2nd at 8:00 p.m. PT
Where: Providence Park in Portland, OR
Portland Timbers: 5-5-3, 5th place in the Western Conference, 1-0 Loss at Seattle Sounders
San Jose Earthquakes: 5-5-4, 4th place in the Western Conference, 4-2 loss vs. LA Galaxy