MLS Preview: Will Timbers Continue Current Unbeaten Streak
By Philip Mitchell
On a rare Thursday evening, the Rose City will host the Portland Timbers tenth match of the 2013 season against the Eastern Conference’s New England Revolution.
With a kickoff slated at 7:30 PM Pacific, first year coach, Caleb Porter takes his team into what could be their seventh game unbeaten, with a victory or tie. For New England, their sluggish start of the season could be given a bit of a jump start by possibly earning their first back-to-back wins of the season.
For the Timbers, signs of improvement are evident. After being named number four in the league in the most recent MLS power rankings, the Timbers hope to ignore the pressure to continue their current form. Last week, a wave of momentum has followed them home after their 3 to 2 win at Sporting Park against Sporting Kansas City. Speaking in Beaverton, Oregon, Porter was quoted by MLSSoccer.com’s Dan Itel as saying, “We realize to win we must perform well and will take no one lightly.”
Last season, the Revolution won their only meeting of the season. In this match up at Gillette Stadium, the Timbers fell short off a lone goal by striker Saer Sene during the first minute of regulation.
Goal keeper Bobby Shuttlesworth pointed out the challenge for this match however, “I think it will be a difficult game.” He later added how the team could take the infamous crowd conditions, while talking to media representatives for the Revolution’s website, “I’m always excited to play in front of those kinds of crowds. I think the guys kind of think of it as a plus. You know we can go in there. It will be hard for us but also the crowd will build us up as well.”
The key for victory in this match depends on two factors. Will the Timbers fast paced attack do what they did to SKC to New England or will the Revs’ back line hold strong like they did against Philly last week or when they were on the road in Seattle?
If either of these break or become discombobulated, the advantage will be in the hands of the team that stays organized and sets the tone and pace of the match. At this time, all eyes are looking at Portland to continue their recent wave of success. For New England, it will be whether they can survive under what will be one of their most difficult crowd conditions of the season.
Portland will continue to rely on the chemistry that has been centralized around Diego Valeri and the speed of Ryan Johnson to continue their attack. Defensively there are still concerns. Futty Danso was taken off of the playing surface in KC and appeared to be injured. In addition, Andrew Jean Baptiste, has recently returned from Injury. Whoever is paired with the French veteran Mikael Silvestre will need to hold his own or the back line could be a liability for a solid result and possibly a victory.
For the Revolution, their back line of defense will be missing A.J Soares. Up to this point in the season, has had a successful season. However, they will be led by Portuguese Defender Jose Goncalves, who was quite remarkable against Seattle.
The Rev’s midfield is a cornucopia of nationalities consisting of Kalifa Cisse from France, Lee Nguyen from the USA, Juan Toja from Colombia and Sainey Nyassi from Gambia. The question that remains is which formation will Coach Jay Heaps choose? Whatever that combination may be, it could have an impact at who plays up top with Jerry Bengston. Those who follow the game internationally and MLS may recall Bengston has a bit of a history of getting goals that matter regardless of the kit on his back.
Catch this game nationally on Univision Deportes or regionally on Comcast Sportsnet (New England) or ROOT Sports (Portland) to see these two go toe to toe at 7:30 PM Pacific.