FC Dallas faces the Timbers on the road this weekend after a hard fought draw against the LA Galaxy last weekend to snap the team's scoreless streak. We speak to Michael at Stumptown Footy about the Portland club.
1. Portland's rival to the north has made a huge splash this summer with a new signing. What have been the Timbers' needs during the summer window and have they been met with any new player acquisitions?
Due to the fact that the Timbers rebuilt the entire roster in the offseason, changing out more than half of the team, there wasn't as much of an impetus, or possibility of making too many moves during the summer transfer window. Merritt Paulson did indicate that Portland missed out on a third Designated Player 'at the 11th hour' but there were no clues as to that player's identity or position. That said, right back is a bit of a need for the Timbers but Caleb Porter will continue to use a combination of Jack Jewsbury, Ryan Miller and Michael Harrington.
2. Caleb Porter and the guys have put together some impressive streaks and individual results so far in 2013. Is Porter exceeding, meeting, or failing short of expectations as the Timbers' second full time MLS Coach?
Porter is exceeding even the lofty expectations the club put forth in the pre-season. While there has been a bit of a slow down in goals over the past month, the Timbers are competitive in every match and play an attractive style, as promised. Given the constraints of a single offseason to make changes and a single pre-season to implement them, it's been nothing short of remarkable what Porter's done since moving to Portland in December.
3. The Portland Timbers have scored 32 goals so far this year, and we've seen several of them as contenders for the Goal of the Week Award. Considering that the club only scored 34 goals total last season and 40 the year before, it is reasonable to think Will Johnson and company will far surpass those marks in the last 12 games of 2013. What has been the key to Portland's scoring prowess?
Before the past month, the Timbers' scoring prowess could mostly be attributed to Porter's offensive style. Holding possession for long spells stretches defenses and allows the time on the ball to give creative players like Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe and Rodney Wallace the opportunities to create space for themselves or find other attackers cutting into space. As such, five different players have at least four goals and three have at least five assists. No one player has more than seven goals or more than eight assists. In other words, the system frees players to express themselves while still operating within a larger framework. For most of the year, that has provided Portland with ample scoring opportunities, many of which have been turned into goals by a strong set of attacking players.
Bonus Question (Injuries and Projected Lineup): Both Frederic Piquionne (ankle) and Will Johnson (shoulder) have been ruled 'day-to-day' as recently as Thursday. Jack Jewsbury missed out on the US Open Cup semifinal last week but seems to be healthy enough to return at either right back or central midfield on the weekend. While it's no guarantee, and Porter likes to make small changes depending on the opponent, here's a projected starting XI based on injuries and form:
GK - Ricketts
LB - Harrington
CB - Kah
CB - Jean-Baptiste
RB - Miller
DM - Chara
DM - Jewsbury
LM - Wallace
CM - Valeri
RM - Nagbe
F - R Johnson
You can read my answers over at Stumptown Footy - thank you again to Michael for the insight. Last but never least, Thank You for reading Big D Soccer.