With the team in flux and a home match against the Vancouver Whitecaps coming up on Sunday, the Portland Timbers will almost certainly make several changes to their line up in tomorrow's match against Chivas USA, employing a squad rotation policy rarely seen in Caleb Porter's tenure as head coach.
The Timbers started off their current road trip with a much needed 2-1 win over the New York Red Bulls, but now the Timbers are in Los Angeles and are preparing to take on Chivas in a match that could see them back in the basement of the Western Conference with a loss or within a point the Whitecaps and the final playoff spot with a win.
However, going into tomorrow's game the Timbers will have had three days to rest between matches, one of which included a cross country flight, while Chivas are at home and have not played a match since their 1-1 draw against FC Dallas on the 17th.
Looking back at Saturday's lineup for the Timbers, it is very similar to the lineups that have been run out in every other Timbers match this season.
Saturday's Lineup: Ricketts; Villafana, Kah, McKenzie, Jewsbury; Johnson, Zemanski; Zakuani, Valeri, Nagbe; Urruti
Saturday's Subs: Weber, Paparatto, Danso, Alhassan, Nanchoff, Fernandez, Adi
According to Porter, however, the Timbers considered bringing as many as 22 players on the long road trip. Beyond the eighteen from Saturday the Timbers have with them Diego Chara, who could return from the broken hand he suffered two weeks ago; Rodney Wallace, who is finally fit to play as a substitute following his recovery from offseason knee surgery; and rookie defender Taylor Peay, who could provide cover at center or left back. The 22nd player who may have traveled with the team could be Michael Harrington, who has been recovering from an ankle sprain, or defender Danny O'Rourke, who has been on trial with the team for the last two weeks.
If the Timbers were to make wholesale changes to their lineup with the players that are on the trip, the Timbers could swap out their entire starting XI.
Rotated Lineup: Weber; Peay, Paparatto, Danso, Harrington; Chara; Wallace, Nanchoff, Fernandez, Alhassan; Adi
There are several issues with this lineup, of course. Harrington seems to still be questionable and an ankle injury is not something that you want to test in a game; Chara, although he is dealing with a less serious soccer-injury, is also still not far removed from surgery to fix his broken hand; and Wallace was confirmed by Porter to be a likely substitute for Wednesday's match in comments made after Saturday's game, rather than being back to starting fitness.
Issues aside, there is no way that the Timbers swap out their entire line-up. Players like Donovan Ricketts will almost certainly be on the pitch again tomorrow evening, while Will Johnson, Jack Jewsbury, Darlington Nagbe, and several others seem unlikely to be removed from the starting lineup as well.
The incumbent starters should not rest too easily, however, given the inclusion of Rauwshan McKenzie in the starting lineup against New York on Saturday. For much of the season, McKenzie was largely considered to be behind Pa Modou Kah, Norberto Paparatto, and Futty Danso on the centerback depth chart, so his inclusion can certainly be read as an intention to shake things up and make things clear that spots in the starting lineup are up for grabs.
So, how much will the Timbers actually shake things up tomorrow? If you were in Porter's shoes, what changes would you make to the lineup during this hectic week? Let us know your XI in the comments below.