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Behind Enemy Lines: Scouting Portland Timbers

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Three points against Portland gets the third seed. FCD looks to finish Timbers' season.

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

There was a small hope inside FC Dallas fans across the metroplex for a miraculous tie or win from Chivas USA against Real Salt Lake in Wednesday's match.

Unfortunately, RSL won - no surprise - leaving FCD in an important last regular game of the season against Portland Timbers at home. If FCD can pull the win against a Portland team trying to sneak its way into the final playoff spot of the Western Conference, the Hoops will be seeded third in playoffs.

It is essentially a playoff game Saturday.

Injury Report

Portland will have some minor holes in its lineup. Head coach Caleb Porter will be without his captain, who was sidelined at the end of September for leg surgery. Porter will also miss defender Steve Zakuni, who injured his groin near the end of September as well. After being out for two games, midfielder Pa Modou Kah was available for Wednesday's CONCACAF match against Honduras' CD Olimpia and could see minutes on Saturday.

Out:  Steve Zakuni (groin injury), Will Johnson (R leg surgery)

Discipline Report

It is worth noting Timbers' defender Norbetto Paparatto will also be out of Saturday's match due to caution accumulation.

Probable Lineup

Portland modeled a 4-2-3-1 formation in the teams' last meeting and look to continue with that formation heading into the final game of the season.

GK: Donovan Ricketts; LB: Jorge Villafana; CB: Liam Ridgewell, Rauwshan McKenzie; RB: Alvas Powell; LDM: Ben Zemanski; RDM: Diego Chara; LM: Rodney Wallace; CM: Diego Valeri; RM: Darlington Nagbe; F: Fanendo Adi

Key Matchup

Adam Moffat vs. Valeri - Last week head coach Oscar Pareja described a hole in the middle in the first half that allowed Nick LaBrocca and Dillon Powers to create space in the midfield. Victor Ulloa and Moffat were able to fix things and control the midfield but will seek to carry that over against Portland. Valeri leads the teams in goals, assists and shots. With a playoff spot on the line for Portland, Valeri will be firing from all cylinders in attack for the Timbers.

Keys to the Three Points

Involve Perez. Returning to lineup last Saturday against Colorado Rapids, Perez was able to score his 11th goal of the season off a penalty. This would be the lone goal for FCD. Perez's presence needs to be shown more efficiently. Provide him with a solid service inside the box and he will be sure to put it away. Portland shutout RSL in its last game. The Timbers' defense is solid, but by exposing holes in the back through Perez, FCD will be sure to get the win.

Closing holes in the back line. Portland has scored 34 goals in open play on the season. The team has 59 goals on the year. The Timbers can easily make the most of every opportunity, so the littlest of mistakes in the back can be costly for Dallas. Matt Hedges and Zach Loyd will need to clear anything and everything out of FCD's defensive third and hope Jair Benitez can last the entire 90 minutes. If Benitez has an early exit again, Kellyn Acosta or Moises Hernandez will have to limit attacking options down the right side.

Keep the head on straight. FCD blew a possible three points when the two teams last played each other in the regular season. After being up 2-0, Dallas ended the match in a 2-2 draw due to losing Perez and Hernandez to red cards late in the second half and by giving up a penalty kick. A lot of emotion rides in this game. As much as Dallas will have that third seed in their minds, the Hoops need to stick to its strong play lately and not snap under pressure.