The story so far
The Timbers are coming off a convincing 3-0 demolishing of Orlando City. Diego Valeri amazed again, picking up his 19th and 20th goals of the season. He now has the distinction of being the highest scoring midfielder in MLS history. As for the Lion’s, they headed back home with their tail between their legs.
Now the Timbers head out on the road for the final time to take on the San Jose Earthquakes; a team still trying to find its identity after firing coach Dom Kinnear early in the season. Can the Timbers pick up another three points on the road or will the Earthquakes rattle the Timbers and send them home with no points?
Talkin' bout playoffs
After Wednesday’s action, the Quakes are sitting below the line in 8th place, but only two points off 6th place FC Dallas. In the last two games against D.C. United and Chicago Fire they have been outscored 8-1. They may be only two points out of a playoff spot, but with the way they're playing the playoffs seem like a longshot at best.
The Timbers, on the other hand, if the playoffs were to start today would have the second seed bye and would get an extra amount of rest to heal the wounded (I’m looking at you, Adi) and make that deep playoff run. I’m trying not to count my chickens before they hatch, but barring a cataclysmic event, the playoffs will be coming to Soccer City USA.
That being said, it could mean the Quakes are going to try to win at all costs to get themselves in a playoff position or play the spoiler. They do have a pretty decent home record of 8-2-5, only notching their second loss Wednesday night against a charging Chicago Fire side that has clinched a playoff berth.
The last time these two teams met was back in June at Providence Park where Diego Valeri bagged a brace and sent the Quakes on their way with a 2-0 loss. So, the season series is tied after 2 with the home team having the advantage. With the way the Quakes have been playing, playing at home doesn’t necessarily equal wins.
Something has to be seriously wrong if you’re giving up 8 goals in just 180 minutes of MLS play. From what I could tell when I went back and watched some condensed games, there is no organization at the back. The only way I could really describe it is chaos and that’s being kind.
They’re really susceptible to the same thing Orlando City was. Get the full-backs in 1v1 situations and use through balls to split the center-backs. Their only scoring threat is an aging Chris Wondolowski who leads the Quakes with 12 goals; the next closest is Marco Ureña with 4. Let that sink in. I don’t think Dom Kinnear was the problem in San Jose.
They’ll either run out a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 with Ureña playing as the lone striker and Wondo just underneath playing the #10 role. They’re willing to absorb pressure and try and hit on the counter-attack. That really hasn’t worked out for them this season, not to mention they really can’t defend against it either.
I can’t say this is a gimme three points, but I’ve watched enough of their defending to know they’re just not good, and I think they know it. I mean, check out this quote from the post-match after playing the Fire.
“If we concede a goal, we’re done,” said San Jose defender Florian Jungwirth. “I’m sure it’s mentality-wise. It’s not the first time. Maybe it’s the first time at home, but if you see the games on the road, we lose with three or four goals’ difference, every time. I’ve never seen that before. It’s tough to have an explanation for that. We talk a lot about that, but we can’t handle that. It makes me angry.”
- Florian Jungwirth; Source
So one of the keys to the match is that if you hit them once and go up 1-0 they’re going to hang their heads and close up shop. The Timbers can then put them out of their misery.
Carry on my wayward sons
Plain and simple the Timbers need to take care of business. The green and gold have the perfect opportunity to, honestly, kick a team when it’s down and claim three points and onward to a first-round bye once the playoffs roll around.
Looking at injuries right now, Adi (hamstring) and Guzman (quad) are listed as questionable. I think the Timbers could be fine with leaving these two in Portland to heal up. I’m not holding my breath on Adi returning to the fold, but maybe during the playoffs? But then maybe off the bench, because to be honest, the offense is clicking the way it is and why ruin a good thing?
Three more matches, it seems like just yesterday we launched the 2017 campaign.