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3 Questions with Stumptown Footy

Interviewing the opposing team's SB Nation blog to see what makes them tick.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This week's match marks FC Dallas' first visit to the west coast in 2015 at Portland. Chris joins us for a Q&A with Stumptown Footy.

Big D Soccer 1) Can you give us an update on Will Johnson and his recovery from the broken leg he suffered in Toronto?

Stumptown Footy- Johnson's timeline seems to have been pushed back a little bit in the last month or so. During preseason there was talk that Johnson could be making his return as soon as early-April, but now it looks like May is the timeline the team is sharing publicly.

Based on this recent shift, though, I think it's fairer to say his recovery is at a point where it's day-to-day. Caleb Porter shared a couple weeks ago that Johnson's leg is structurally and medically sound, but that it's a matter of regaining confidence on the leg after the trauma of the break and so much time off of it. So the best update is probably wait-and-see, but the public timeline is still about a month out.

BDS2) Darlington Nagbe is not a rookie anymore; this is his 5th season in MLS. Is he the type of player to be able to put the Timbers on his back to gain some winning momentum? Do you think he can realistically earn a USMNT call-up when he is eligible later this year?

STF- I thought Matthew Doyle's piece on the MLS website (http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2015/04/02/armchair-analyst-darlington-nagbes-evolution-future-usmnt-midfield-thursday-) hit the nail on the head. I'm not sure Nagbe will ever be the type of player that's going to put a team on his back. But his value as a piece in the machine is immense and his performances early this year have been excellent.

As for the National Team, Klinsmann should be fired on the spot if he doesn't at least call Nagbe to get a look. Right now the National Team lacks a player like Nagbe who can stay on the ball, let his teammates move around him, and facilitate distribution to the primary playmakers. Nagbe won't score double-digit goals for either the Timbers or the National Team, and probably won't log double-digit assists, either. But he fits perfectly into a role that is an area of need for the USMNT, and to not call him into camp to at least see if he can contribute would rise to the level of managerial malpractice.

BDS3) Who were the major roster additions and subtractions over the offseason that will most impact the Timbers' 2015 Performance. Is Portland a stronger team overall since last season, or do you have concerns there is still a piece missing?

STF- There really weren't too many major subtractions in the offseason. Pa Modou Kah left for Vancouver and Donovan Ricketts was sent to Orlando, but otherwise the Timbers retained their core pieces from 2014.

As for additions, the most significant one thus far has been Nat Borchers coming in to help shore up a central defense that struggled mightily through the summer of '14. Adam Kwarasey is now in goal for the Timbers, an addition that has dramatically improved Portland's distribution from the back, but, so far at least, has brought a downgrade in shot-saving. Finally in the attack look for Dairon Asprilla to come off the bench and being some power, pace, and directness to the Timbers' attack.

As for whether they're a better team than in 2014, I think the improvements in central defense certainly make them better on paper. This is a team that scored the 3rd most goals in MLS in 2014, but was held back by a very poor backline through the spring and summer. The summer addition of Liam Ridgewell paid dividends in the fall when the Timbers started posting clean sheets with regularity, but by then the damage was done. The question, however, is how the team will look upon the return of Johnson and, even more importantly, Diego Valeri. If those guys contribute as expected, the Timbers should be quite a bit better than last year.

BDS- Bonus Question: What do you make of the rumor (that I just fabricated) that Nat Borchers is grooming himself to take over for Timber Joey upon retirement?

STF- I'll say this: It takes a lot more than a great beard to get to the level of Timber Joey. If Nat had his eyes on the chainsaw as his eventual retirement gig, he has a long way to go.

That's it from Chris. This next section lists my answers to his questions.

STF1) What is the status of Mauro Diaz and, if he's unable to play against the Timbers, how will FCD look to compensate for his absence?

BDS- Word from the coaches is that Mauro has "lower body tightness." Since his injury last season, there have been a lot of steps taken to ensure his strong recovery. Oscar Pareja said to reporters this week that Diaz is on a different training schedule than the rest of the team. He played a few 90 minutes matches through preseason and March, and now they are going to ease off the gas a little and let him rest. It makes sense to me. Diaz is key to overdriving the offensive engine, so staff are taking a long term approach to his fitness and energy for 2015. Will Diaz feature in Portland? No, I don't think he traveled.

STF2) Despite his set-piece magnificence, Michel has sometimes been a controversial character as a holding midfielder. Has he solidified his standing in the lineup with improved run-of-play performances?

BDS- Yes and no. It's not clear cut yet this early in the season. Michel so far has few if any defensive errors on the official stat books. The complaint with him is that he generates more turnovers than a holding midfielder should. One of the keys to improving midfield has been the rise of Victor Ulloa. He pairs well with Michel and takes some of the defensive pressure off of the Brazilian.

STF3) Undefeated in four with a league-leading 10 points, there's no question the Burn are off to a scintillating start, but we've seen this before. Is there a sense this is more sustainable than years past?

BDS- Oscar Pareja will win MLS Cup with FC Dallas. It's just a matter of time. This year certainly feels more sustainable than last year. The team is less dependent on a single player for goal production. Last year was a trial by fire when Diaz went down with an injury, but Pareja was able to put the rest of the roster back into a successful formation.

Right now, FCD has 10 points from 4 games. No MLS team can maintain 2.5 points per game. Looking back at the past 5 years, only the Supporters Shield winning Galaxy and Eartquakes finished with 1.97 and 1.94 PPG respectively. The most recent couple of Shield winners had less than that. FC Dallas is scheduled for 5 consecutive road games in May/June. All that to say that the nature of a long ML season will bring FCD back down to Earth a bit.

I believe FC Dallas will make the playoffs and challenge for the Cup, but they won't do it flying as high as they are now.

Thanks for reading. This will be the latest game so far this season, kicking off on Pacific Time. Enjoy the beautiful weather and catch the game tonight on TXA 21.