Twice in five days? Really? Ok yes, this is real as the Portland Timbers will host the San Jose Earthquakes for the second time in a month and overall for the second time this week. As we all know the Timbers won 2-1 thanks to two Rodney Wallace goals on Saturday night, eliminating the Earthquakes from the playoffs. Now, with points needed to catch the Vancouver Whitecaps, Portland will play its penultimate home game of the regular season on Wednesday night. Robert Jonas of Center Line Soccer joins us to help preview this quick turnaround and let us know just how different San Jose could be:
1. Due to national team call-ups and suspension, San Jose will be missing a few players from this game that is so vital to the Timbers. Which absence will be the most significant?
The Earthquakes will be without four players that featured in Saturday's match: Victor Bernardez, Cordell Cato, Atiba Harris, and Pablo Pintos. Center back Bernardez, a starter for Honduras in the World Cup in Brazil, will be the biggest loss for San Jose. The anchor of the back line, Bernardez was thought to have retired from international play, so it came as a surprise when he received a call up to Los Catrachos for games against the United States and Mexico. "Big Vic" was vital in matching up with Timbers' forward Fanendo Adi on Saturday, and that duty will now fall to either Jason Hernandez or Ty Harden. Advantage: Portland.
2. Now that the Earthquakes have been formally eliminated from playoff contention, what are the team's goals for the final few games of the season, starting with Wednesday night?
When asked after training on Monday, head coach Mark Watson stated that the team still felt it could win games, and the four games to end the season still held importance to them. The Quakes have slumped over the summer and are now riding a historically long 11 game winless streak. Watson said the team was not interested in taking on the role of spoiler; instead, they wanted to show for themselves and their fans that they have what it takes to come out on top. Even with the four player absences mentioned above, San Jose can still call on Chris Wondolowski, Matias Perez Garcia, Yannick Djalo, and Tommy Thompson -- four offensive-focused attackers -- to push matters forward. Of course, the question remains: who will get them the ball?
3. The Timbers came from behind to win without Diego Valeri on Saturday night. With Valeri back on Wednesday night, is there any hope for the Earthquakes to slow Portland's attack?
Because Valeri is back, the chances Watson would start all four of his offensive players is highly unlikely. Watson shrugged off such a suggestion from this reporter when presented with a proposed 4-1-4-1 starting formation after Monday's training session. The more plausible line-up will feature the two defensive-minded midfielders Sam Cronin and Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi stationed centrally to face-up Valeri. Such a formation will put more emphasis on the Earthquakes' wide players -- minus Harris and Cato -- to channel possession via the wings. Shea Salinas will be vital in that effort, as he has been San Jose's most consistent midfielder the entire season. Defender Shaun Francis will spell Pintos at full back and also be required to push forward.
Jon Busch; Shaun Francis, Ty Harden, Jason Hernandez, Jordan Stewart; Matias Perez Garcia, Sam Cronin, Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi, Shea Salinas; Yannick Djalo, Chris Wondolowski