Timbers head for key point to early season
There are no such thing as must-win games five games into a 32-game season. However, a Portland Timbers victory versus Chivas USA on Saturday night at Jeld-Wen Field would right a ship that appears shaky after two straight defeats.
In all four games this season, the Timbers have conceded the first goal and failed to score in the first half. The team has also given up at least one goal in every match its played this season.
To turn things around against the Goats, Portland will need to pester a surprisingly tough Chivas defense, which has allowed just three goals in its four matches. Darlington Nagbe, who received votes for both MLS player of the week and player of the month, has been a star when playing in the center of the field and could be the catalyst that breaks Chivas hot defensive start.
Chivas USA is led by goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, who is tied for the league lead in saves with 16. Other key players for Chivas USA are former Sounder James Riley and rookie forward Casey Townsend, who has scored the lone goal this season for the club.
Former league MVP Juan Pablo Angel is listed as doubtful with concussion symptoms and has been held out of previous matches in Portland due to his dislike of turf fields.
Despite a poor scoring rate for Chivas to start the season, the Timbers will need to solidify a backline that has appeared shaky at times this season. Whether it is due to skill or lack of communication, Portland has given up quite a few preventable goals in 2012.
Andrew Jean-Baptiste has stepped in gamely as the second centerback, however none of the four starting defenders have been without faults to start the season.
The Timbers will look to repeat some of their defensive results from last season that saw goalkeeper Troy Perkins earn a MLS-career high nine shutouts.
The Timbers starting lineup will likely depend on the health and game fitness of Franck Songo’o and Kalif Alhassan. If either is ready to start on Saturday, it is likely that Nagbe will start at striker. If not, look for Nagbe to start the game on the wing and maybe switch with center midfielder Diego Chara during the course of the game.
In addition to players that were injured prior to last week’s loss to Real Salt Lake, the Timbers will likely be without usual substitute James Marcelin, who has a hamstring strain.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 on Saturday.
Check out OregonSports.com and NoPityCity.blogspot.com for coverage of the match. For in-game coverage, head to twitter.com/TheMikeDonovan