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Behind Enemy Lines: Portland Timbers

Can Dallas overcome serious midfield injuries to continue their hot streak?

Doug Pensinger

The end of March fast approaches and it's full steam ahead for FC Dallas. Currently sitting at the top of the standings, it's been a great start so far and FCD looks to keep the magic going against the Portland Timbers.

Last season Dallas met Portland four times in all competitions, three in the regular season and once in the US Open Cup. They came out on the losing side three times, while earning one draw. The team and the fans alike would love to get a win here to turn the tide back in our favor.

Injury Watch

For the Timbers, CB Norberto Paparatto has been injured but could return this game. Also, Maximiliano Urruti has been out but could start this game. Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts will miss the game with a red card suspension.

Projected Lineup

Goalkeeper: Andrew Weber; RB: Jack Jewsbury; CB: Pa Modou Kah, Norberto Paparatto; LB: Michael Harrington; CM: Diego Chara, Will Johnson; RM: Darlington Nagbe; ACM: Diego Valeri; LM: Steve Zakuani; FW: Gaston Fernandez

Futty Danso will step in at CB if Paparatto isn't ready and Urruti could start in place of Fernandez.

Key Matchups

Castillo & Watson vs. Harrington & Jewsbury - Like they do against most teams, Castillo and Watson will have an edge in pace over the Portland fullbacks. If they can continue to take advantage of their speed like they did last week, it will pin the Portland fullbacks in their own end of the field and disrupt the Portland attack.

Chara, Johnson, and Valeri vs. whoever lines up at the 2 holding d-mid positions - If Portland is able to control this game, it will come from this matchup. Obviously Dallas will need more than the 2 d-mids to contribute, but if Portland is able to over run Dallas in the midfield(which was often times the case last season), it could be a very long day for the Dallas backline with Valeri on the ball and speedsters like Nagbe and Zakuani running at them.

Keys To Three Points

Portland has yet to click this season like they did for the majority of last year when they had the top record in the Western Conference. But you get the feeling watching them that it could all come together at any moment. Here's hoping this sleeping giant stays asleep for at least another week.

Portland brings a lot of high pressure so ball security out of the back will be very important. Dallas needs to get the ball wide and use their speed advantage down the flanks to put the Timbers on their collective heels. And as always, Dallas needs to take advantage of their set pieces, where Portland has shown some vulnerability.

I believe this will be a very tough game for Dallas. The Timbers play a style which proved very problematic last season. But this is a different Dallas team. If Diaz, Castillo, and Watson can continue to be very dangerous, I see Dallas earning a hard fought 2-1 or 1-0 win.

That's my opinion, but what about yours? Vote in the poll and explain yourself in the comments below.