The weekend is nearly here which means it is time to dive into game previews around here. Today we welcome in Kevin McCamish from Stumptown Footy to discuss this weekend’s big clash between FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers.
BDS: Just like FC Dallas, Portland hit a bit of a rough patch in May before getting a win last weekend at home. What has attributed to the rough patch, and how did Portland over come it? Do you all think they are past that rough patch as well?
SF: Portland's last victory came on April 22nd vs Vancouver. Since then we've gone D-L-D-L-L before finally getting back in the win column vs San Jose. The rough patch can probably mostly be attributed to a combination of bad luck, lack of mentality, and in one case, just coming out without any desire to play soccer. The 3-0 loss vs San Jose was pretty bad. We traveled down there and the entire match just weren't a soccer team. We allowed a team like San Jose to look good.
We got a 1-1 draw against Atlanta United, which is a good result given the run of form in that stretch. But followed it up by having the wheels come completely off against Montreal in a 4-1 rout. That was a winnable game, even after a bad call to give Montreal a 1-0 on a PK. But unfortunately Portland got baited into losing their minds a bit after the PK. That culminated in Chara getting baited to swat at Piatti and getting a deserved straight red card for a hand to the face. After the red card Portland shaped up some what for the remainder of the first half. But the second half, where we needed to come out mentally strong and focused, we didn't, and the game ended in a 4-1 loss to a bad eastern conference team. And the last loss was up against our biggest rivals in Seattle. That was some bad defending, allowing Roldan to head home a corner, followed up by a lot of bad luck by not getting two handballs in the box called in our favor. If there is one thing it seems Portland can't deal with, it's the situations that arise from referees making mistakes. They are human, they make bad calls all the time, it's part of the game. But Portland can't seem to stay focused when something egregious goes against them.
They got their most recent win by finally having their ideal starting XI together for more than 18 minutes (see MTL game) since the opening month. And they stayed focused and played their game the way they wanted to. It helped that it was against San Jose, and that Diego Valeri got back into form. But is the rough patch over? That'll be hard to tell. June is going to be an extremely busy month and there will need to be a lot of rotation of players. Getting another win at home against a very good Dallas team will go a long way towards having good feelings about how the rest of June goes for us.
BDS: The international window is going to take a bit of fun out of this matchup with key players on both sides called up. Who do you see stepping up for guys like Darlington Nagbe and David Guzman while they are away this weekend?
SF: Guzman and Nagbe will be huge losses. We did win against San Jose without Nagbe so that was good. But Guzman is going to be difficult, if not impossible to replace. The replacements themselves are easy enough to predict. Based on previous matches with both players missing for part of or all of a game we can reasonably assume Dairon Asprilla is the winger in 3rd on the depth chart. So he will likely get the bulk of the minutes in place of Nagbe with Victor Arboleda seeing the bench as attacking depth. For Guzman, his replacement is likely Lawrence Olum, who has played right CB for us for a good portion of this early season but is more naturally a defensive midfielder. If not Olum, another option is Amobi Okugo. Both Olum and Okugo will provide backup for the 6 position, but neither will have the tenacity or bite that Guzman provides the Timbers midfield. Chara should stay in his box-to-box position while (most likely) Olum covers the backline.
BDS: What are some keys to the match for Portland as they look to go for two wins in a row for the first time since the opening month of the season?
SF: I was certainly hoping to face the Dallas team in the rough patch and not the one who just annihilated RSL 6-2. So the key for Portland is going to be staying focused and staying in the right mentality. The team cannot lose control at any point for any reason. Besides that, they will need to make sure their defense builds off the shutout against San Jose and also stays focused against a far more effective attacking team in Dallas. With Lamah's hat trick against RSL, I'm sure he will be itching to get more goals while in form.
Predicted XI (L to R, 4-2-3-1): Gleeson; Vytas, Ridgewell, Miller, Valentin; Olum, Chara; Blanco, Valeri, Asprilla; Adi