Micheal joins us once again from Stumptown Footy to talk Portland Timbers. This is the teams' second meeting of 2014. FC Dallas battled the Timbers to a 2-1 victory on March 29th; however, FCD won only 3 games in the ensuing 2 months after. On the flipside, Portland won 3 of their last 4 games, breaking an early season slump.
BDS-1) The Timbers didn't get their first win until May 3rd but have now won 3 of the last 4 games. What changed to get Portland earning points again?
STF: Offense, offense, offense. While the defense had more than a few head-shaking moments, it's fair to assign a lot of the early blame on the attackers who simply could not score. Apart from the truly strange 4-4 draw with Seattle Sounders, it took the Timbers nine games to score more than once in a game. Since then they've scored at least two in six of the past seven and three in four of those six games. The addition of Fanendo Adi has given Caleb Porter the ability to more specifically tailor his line-ups to opponents/situations and that'd helped, too. The defense (particularly at center back) continues to be a revolving door but they too have improved over the past month or so (save the Vancouver Whitecaps debacle).
BDS-2) With 4 goals and 2 assists in 5 games, Fanendo Adi looks to be the real deal. How does his role differ from the other Timbers forwards? How does his style bring something new to the table?
STF: Adi is a big, powerful, traditional striker, the likes of which the Timbers have never had in the MLS era. Following Kenny Cooper, Kris Boyd and Ryan Johnson, Adi finally gives Porter a back-to-goal threat in the box. Frederic Piquionne previously held that role but his departure early this season opened the door for Adi's loan. While both Gaston Fernandez and Maximiliano Urruti have scored six goals, Adi brings a nice change of pace that allows Porter to selectively play more direct than his fabled 'Porterball' would suggest. It's that ability to change things up that have kept opponents guessing and Adi has more than made the most of his chances. With four goals and two assists in fewer than 300 minutes (and just two starts), the loan has been an unquestioned success. That said, it's rather unlikely that he will start against FC Dallas given how quickly the game follows Portland's win at Real Salt Lake (in which Adi scored twice in the first half).
BDS-3) Besides Adi, who is someone that FC Dallas fans may not be familiar with that they should be watching this week?
STF: Other than Adi, this group should be very familiar to Dallas fans. Expect the likes of Will Johnson, Diego Chara, Diego Valeri, Steve Zakuani and Darlington Nagbe to all start with Urruti likely at the top of the formation. Jorge Villafana and Rauwshan McKenzie may not be overly familiar names but they've both played against Dallas in the past with Chivas USA. There won't be anything surprising about what Porter will want to do on Wednesday night. The question will be whether Dallas has enough bodies and the wherewithal to slow things down.
BDS- Roster Predictions?
And now for my answers to Portland's questions.
STF-1. When we last spoke (ahead of the March 29 game), FC Dallas was on a roll and undefeated. Now they're coming off their first win since mid-April. Should we expect to see a team on the mend or the one that did not win for nearly two months?
BDS: This team is on the mend, but still no where close to the strength you saw back in March. Injuries have absolutely ravaged this roster, and these aren't squad players on the trainer's table. It's our first eleven suffering the brunt of the injury bug. Last week, Drew Epperley wrote on our website:
"As of June 6, FC Dallas players have missed 74 games due to injury. Another five games have been lost due to suspensions. Six players have been ejected through the first 15 matches this season. The club record for red cards in a season is seven, which occurred during the 2008 season."
The win against Colorado provides a welcome glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. However, the World Cup break can't come soon enough for FC Dallas. We expect to have many of these players back healthy in July including Mauro Diaz and George John.
STF-2. Both starting center backs - Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman - were removed before the second half due to injury over the weekend. Will either of them be available on Wednesday, and if not, who will start in the middle instead?
BDS: Zimmerman is likely out for a little while. I wouldn't expect to see him again until after the World Cup break. Zimmerman has done well on the field when he's been healthy for FCD, but it seems like he has been injured more often than not. It was his hamstring on Saturday. I expect FCD to keep him rested through the next several weeks to see if he can reach 100% for the end of season playoff push.
Hedges, I wish I had more information. He also had hamstring trouble on Saturday. I don't the extent of it. Oscar Pareja will be keen to rest him though if it seems like something that could worsen playing in Portland this week. Better for him to miss this game than the next several through the end of summer.
Stephen Keel will report for centerback duty this week. Zach Loyd or Moises Hernandez will pair with him. Moises has played as a centerback under OP. Even though Zach usually plays right back, he edges Moises a little bit in experience in the middle of defense. OP will have to way his option including who would play RB if Zach takes the center with Keel.
STF-3. Before the weekend, Dallas had not scored two goals in a game since April 19 while the Timbers have scored at least two in five straight and scored three in four of the past seven. Will Portland be able to simply outscore Dallas, given recent form?
BDS: Portland will want to focus on offense, yes. This FC Dallas team has a grand total of 1 shutout so far this year. With the top 3 centerbacks possibly out injured this week, I don't expect the team to improve upon that statistic in Portland.
However, you are well aware that nothing is simple in this game. FC Dallas is unpredictable right now. With a constantly changing lineup mitigating for suspensions and injuries, it's difficult to predict who will be the first eleven on the field Wednesday. Blas Perez has been hot and cold, mostly cold, so far this season, but it only takes one goal to open the flood gates and put him on a goal scoring tear. Fabian Castillo will be riding high after an impressive performance this past weekend and a goal nominated for GOTW. I think it will be a competitive game. The pressure will be on Portland to score if Dallas can get a goal.
Raul Fernandez, Jair Benitez, Stephen Keel, Moises Hernandez, Zach Loyd, Victor Ulloa, Tesho Akindele, Peter Luccin, Fabian Castillo, Blas Perez, Andres Escobar
Kellyn Acosta, George John, Mauro Diaz, Hendry Thomas, Walker Zimmerman, Michel, (Matt Hedges?)