Following the Portland Timbers' 3-1 defeat of Sporting Kansas City on Tuesday night in the US Open Cup, the two teams fly to the northwest for a league encounter. While the Timbers are expected to make quite a few changes, it looks like Sporting may be forced to use mostly the same line-up that lost at home last night. For the second time this week we turn to Ben Gartland of The Blue Testament to reflect on the Open Cup game and look ahead to Friday night's MLS match.
1. After such a bright start for Sporting, were you surprised to see the momentum swing to the Timbers for much of the next hour?
I was not terribly surprised seeing how the Timbers were lining up. They were focusing on clogging up the middle and forcing the game out wide, which brought Seth Sinovic and Kevin Ellis up too far forward, leaving Sporting KC vulnerable to the counter attack down the wing. It was a really poor game played defensively by Sporting KC, and the rare poor game from Sinovic in general, but Portland had Sporting KC game planned perfectly. Once the Timbers got the first goal, Portland was able to sit back a bit and absorb the attack, as Porter said. We saw, especially in the second half, Sporting KC not linking up well in the final third and making bad passes all around. This was because of a good defensive plan by Portland that really took the pressure out of Sporting KC's system. The game starting in SKC's favor was not surprising given these tactics, nor was the momentum swing to the Timbers.
2. Given the strong line-up employed by Peter Vermes, at least relative to available players, are there any significant changes expected for Friday's night league game?
The biggest difference will likely be Igor Juliao starting at right back, should he be back in time from his injury suffered against Houston Dynamo at the beginning of the month. Other than Juliao, we may see Alex Martinez get a start in the midfield but, since it would come at the expense of Paulo Nagamura sitting on the bench, there's a possibility he comes in as a substitute like he did in the Open Cup match. We talked earlier in the week about how Sporting KC's depth has been affected by injuries and World Cup absences, now we're seeing the results. I would not be surprised to see a lineup Friday night that has 9 out of 11 of the same starters that the US Open Cup did.
3. Dom Dwyer is clearly the most dangerous attacking player at Kansas City's disposal. If he's held in check again, is there anyone else who can realistically give Sporting a chance to score multiple goals in Portland?
The best chance to score multiple goals is going to come from Soony Saad, who has really started to come into form as of late. Saad has scored three times in as many games, with the first two coming from outside the box. Saad really has a nose for goal and is not afraid to take that outside shot. He brings a much different element than Dom Dwyer, who gets most of his goals by being tenacious and never letting a ball go in the box. Although Saad's natural position is center forward, he is still able to be productive coming off the wing. Sometimes he can get too far center, as we saw a couple of times in the Open Cup match, but he's still fairly dangerous.
Expected XI: (4-3-3)
Eric Kronberg; Igor Juliao, Aurelien Collin, Eric Palmer-Brown, Seth Sinovic; Lawrence Olum, Paolo Nagamura, Antonio Dovale, Soony Saad, Dom Dwyer, Sal Zizzo