The Story So Far
The Timbers are coming off a midweek Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup clash with the San Jose Earthquakes. The kids took care of business bouncing the Quakes out of the competition with a score line of 2-0. The Timbers fielded a pretty young team, so most of the regular starters should be ready to go.
Before that, they saw their six match winning streak come to an end with a 1-1 tie against the LA Galaxy on the weekend, but they remain unbeaten.
Now they have to face the best team in the west: Sporting Kansas City.
Wild Wild West
Sporting KC are currently top of the Western Conference with 28 points and a robust 2 points per match. They are unbeaten in their last six through all competitions, on the weekend they put down Minnesota United 4-1 and then they eliminated Real Salt Lake from the U.S. Open Cup paving the way for a Round of 16 appearance.
They carry a 3-1-2 road record into Providence Park on Saturday night. The question will be can they win at PP? This year, the Timbers have turned Providence Park into a fortress (4-0-1). So it’ll be up to the Sporks’ offense to breakdown the Timbers at home. The Timbers home record is among the best in the Western Conference.
Sporting KC will most likely come out in a 4-3-3, with Oregon State product Khiry Shelton as the lone striker, he’ll be flanked by Johnny Russell and Dániel Sallói. Now common wisdom would say that your number nine is the one hauling in the goals. Not so fast partner, Shelton has exactly one goal this season. It’s Russell that’s been providing most of the offense with 5 goals which ties him with defensive midfielder Felipe Gutiérrez.
Look for the outside backs (especially Graham Zusi) to bust forward into the attack. Zusi isn’t afraid to mix it up in the offensive half, even drifting into the middle with the ball looking for an outlet or going on to score himself, which he’s done twice this season. Look for Jimmy Medranda on the left side to get forward, but not to the extent that Zusi does.
Their midfield is pretty strong and can dangerous, and without the services of Diego Chara the Timbers will have their hands full with Espinoza, Sanchez, and Croizet. They’re the key to linking up with the forwards, offering through passes meant to split the center-backs, and getting men in on goal. Mabiala and Cascante are going to have to stay frosty for those through passes and putting that fire out.
Protect This House
Let’s just get this out of the way: Without Chara in the line-up, the Timbers haven’t won in 17 tries. That’s not a great nugget of information going into this match against the best in the west. The Timbers need the three points to keep hobnobbing with the top of the table, but how are the Timbers going to cope without Diego Chara?
Without him I’m sure we’re going to be treated to a Lawrence Olum sighting. Which doesn’t inspire confidence in the least, but it is what is - and the Timbers are going to have to overcome it and hope Olum has one hell of a match.
The last time the Sporks were at Providence Park they won on a Dom Dwyer goal in the 53rd minute, in April of last year. Just one look at their striker situation, and I bet some wish they had Dwyer in the lineup providing those goals. I could see this team, lacking a major goal scoring threat, hit the wall later in the season.
The Timbers home winning streak now span’s 11 matches, making it the second longest run in club history. They went 22 home matches without a defeat from April 2013 to May 2014 which is their longest winning streak. The flip side of this is that the road team has won five of the 12 meetings all-time in the series between Portland and Kansas City. I’m not going to say this is a must win, but to gain ground, one has to win and take all three points.
The Timbers still have some injuries to worry about and I wouldn’t be surprised if Bill Tuiloma deputises for Alvas Powell who is still nursing a left thigh injury and is listed as questionable - he may make the 18. Old Bill seemed not to embarrass himself on the weekend, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts. We saw Kendall McIntosh start in goal on Wednesday and with Jake out with a back injury, which are always a crap shoot, I see him making the 18.
Speaking of keepers, Jeff Attinella and Jake Gleeson now have the exact same amount of matches played (6) and minutes (540). Jeff has faced less shots 22-29, goals allowed 4-14, that’s a 0.67 GAA to Jake Gleeson’s 2.33.
Here’s my predicted XI
Jeff Attinella, Zarek Valentin, Larrys Mabiala, Julio Cascante, Bill Tuiloma, Andrés Flores, Lawrence Olum, Cristhian Paredes, Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri, Samuel Armenteros
The only one thing I could see go differently is at striker; we could see Adi get the start after not getting the start against LA and not getting any minutes during the USOC match with San Jose. I wouldn’t even mind seeing both of them up top, but to do that you throw the formation that seems to be working out the window.
So for now, I’m pro one striker.
Who do you start at striker?
This poll is closed