MLS Preview: Two Hot Teams Meet in Texas
By Philip Mitchell
Frisco, Texas will be the home on Wednesday May the 8th, to two of the hottest teams in MLS’ western conference. FC Dallas, will be putting their coach, Schellas Hyndman’s undefeated home record (so far this season) up against the Portland Timbers. Led by Coach Caleb Porter, the Timbers have yet to be beaten on the road and are on a 7 game undefeated streak. Simply said, this mid-week game could be the game of the round.
Last time they ventured outside of the Rose City defeated Sporting Kansas City in a shootout 3 to 2. On the flipside, Dallas, the last time they played in front of their home fans easily defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps two to zero. However, both teams failed to win in last round, both earning a draw against their opponents.
Portland failed at home to convert one of their twenty plus shots into a goal against New England. Fortunately for them, goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts made the necessary saves to guarantee the tie late in the match. Dallas, on the other hand, while visiting Vancouver, failed to protect a two goal lead.
This will not be the first time these teams have met since last season. Both teams met late in the pre-season in Portland during the latter portion of February. Dallas won the match one to zero thanks to Blas Perez knocking in a bit of a scrap goal in the 16th minute of play.
Despite being preseason, it is important to note that the Timbers started and played primarily reservists and current players that normally come on as substitutes. They only players who are currently starters were defender Futty Danso and Rodney Wallace, who just happens to be listed as a defender who most recently has been playing up top on the left wing.
Dallas, during that game, started mainly players that are currently in the top 11. Eventually, all persons on the roster that are starters and the top 18 got time that game. To only score one against this version of PTFC speaks volume of the form and skill that Porter arranged that evening. Nevertheless, Dallas was victorious and both of the coaches have shown to take their teams in a positive direction up to this point of the season.
Players that will not be seen due to injury or suspension are significant this round. For Dallas, Jackson will miss the round after being ejected in Vancouver after he punched Alain Rochet in the head. Jackson has been an important portion of the attack that Dallas has used to wear teams down and also scored 2 of the teams 15 goals.
Mikael Silvestre will also not be playing for Portland. His injury has been declared to keep him out for 6 to 9 months, which is essentially the rest of the season. This blow to PTFC’s defense could be very consequential. Especially when they have been outscored in Frisco nine goals to zero in the past two matches. Indeed this is a different team but it could feature three defenders that were on last year’s roster.
The question that still remains is who will take Silvestre’s position? Could it be Andrew Jean Baptiste, who has had a few strong appearances before getting injured? Could rookie Dylan Tucker-Gagnes get the nod? Those present when the two teams met in the pre-season may remember how he dealt with Kenny Cooper. He did pretty well for someone with that little experience.
Cooper is a player who has a love hate relationship with Portland fans. His participation in PTFC’s inaugural season is a bit of a lightning rod, depending on which circle of friends you are in. Lots of eyes will be on his every move praising or scrutinizing what he was capable of achieving this match.
Making his return to his original MLS club, Cooper can be a game changer for the match. If he is able to replicate the form he showed in New York and not in the preseason (which looked at little like he did when he was in Portland) then Dallas could easily win the game. That is a big if. So far he has more or less been effective on the pitch but not when it comes to being relied upon for goals. His presence primarily has opened up opportunities for others, such as team goal leader (3 goals) Blas Perez.
Besides the defense as being imperative for both clubs, as well as the performance of Cooper, the midfield battle will set the tone in this match. Former MVP David Ferreira versus Diego Valeri could very well be a match up not to miss. Both of the players are considered to be each team’s play maker. Whoever dominates or takes an edge could dictate which team could possibly win. In addition, the probable match up of Will Johnson versus newcomer Michel could also light up the highlight reel. Both tend to be defensive minded midfielders that specialize as more of a supportive role while their teams possess the ball.
Finally, could this be another goalkeeper clinic? It could but it could also be a shootout with quite a few goals. Combined together, the two teams together have scored 29 goals where Portland has only been shut out once. Dallas has not. Regardless, this has the potential to be and exciting match for those present or watching on TV.
For those unable to get to the match, kick off is at 8 PM Central time / 6 PM Pacific and can be seen on Time Warner Cable Sports (Dallas) and Root Sports (Portland).