Toronto FC v Portland Timbers PreviewBy: Sairax | March 24th, 2011
Conference: West Position: 8th
W-L-D: 0-1-0 (0 points, -2 goal differential)
Away Form: 0-1-0 (-2 goal differential)
Recent Form: L
Last Meeting: N/A
It’s the 2011 home opener for Toronto FC and who do we face but another expansion team. After playing the Whitecaps in their first ever MLS game, we will be hosting Portland Timbers this weekend in their second ever game in MLS. We made some history in our last match since it featured Vancouver’s first ever MLS goal and the game ended up being Vancouver’s first ever MLS win. I don’t know about you, but I would like very much not to make any of Portland’s history books on Saturday.
So who are these Portland lads anyway? Last season they finished 3rd in the USL Conference of USSF Division 2. Their overall record in the league was 13-7-10 with a goal difference of +11. Not too bad considering the awful streak they had in May, going on an 8 game winless streak whilst competing on two fronts. They made it to the playoffs in post season, facing notable rivals Vancouver Whitecaps. Vancouver got the best of that tie and Portland did not end up progressing from the playoff quarterfinals.
Portland have been as busy as you would expect during the offseason. Last August, the Timbers appointed former Houston Dynamo Assistant Coach John Spencer as Head Coach and he is at the helm for Portland’s inaugural MLS season. He has emphasized youth, athleticism, and and mental toughness as fundamental to his team. He has been described as funny and encouraging as a coach and seems to be well liked by the team. This season will no doubt be a huge test to see if he has what it takes to be a top coach.
The Timbers have made a fair number of trades in the months before the start of the 2011 season. They brought in Jeremy Hall from New York Red Bulls as a third round pick in the SuperDraft. Jack Jewsbury was acquired from Sporting Kansas and should provide some experience in the midfield. Other notable midfield additions include second overall SuperDraft pick, Darlington Nagbe and Sal Zizzo, formerly of Chivas USA.
In goal, Portland has Troy Perkins who faced the huge task of keeping out goals for DC United last season. Needless to say, that didn’t go to well considering United’s leaky defense. Perkins and the United defense conceded 47 goals last season, so Perkins will be hoping for a fresh start with the Timbers and another chance at proving to doubters that he can provide safe hands. As for the Timbers’ defense, they have been solid, particularly in their last two seasons in USL. MLS, however, is a whole other kettle of fish. They’ve already let in 3 goals against 2010 MLS Cup Champions Colorado Rapids. Maybe they are stronger than that game suggests, but with TFC’s focus being attacking this season, we should really have a go at their backline and make sure we test them much more than we did the Whitecaps in our last match.
Portland have kept some of their old team from USL last season. It’s a positive thing that they have players that know each other and have experience playing together, but some of them have not played in MLS, which could be a detriment. As with most expansion teams, you don’t really know how things will turn out until you see them play a few games. They don’t look strong enough to be challenging for a playoff spot, but hey, you never really know in this league. Their biggest threat to us in our upcoming matchup will likely be former MLS All-Star Kenny Cooper. Cooper enjoyed his best years in MLS when he played for FC Dallas from 2006 to 2009. In 2008, he scored 18 goals for FC Dallas, but unfortunately his time with the club was littered with injuries and he left to go abroad in 2009. Now he’s back with Portland ready to make his comeback in MLS. He scored Portland’s first MLS goal ever in their last game against Colorado, which ended 3-1 in favour of the Rapids. That shows he still has something left in those boots. Whether he can replicate his form of days past is unknown, but he is big, strong, as well as good with the ball at his feet, so our defenders need to keep a close eye on him.
From dazzling kit unveilings to club logo controversy, this Portland team is certainly doing what it can to make its mark in Major League Soccer. They will be an interesting team to watch, and certainly people should tune in to see their games against their fierce rivals Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps. Those should be exciting and intense matches that will be great for the league. Right now, they have lost their only MLS game played 3-1, but it was away from home and against the MLS Cup Champions. They may be sitting in 8th place in the Western Conference, but they surely will not want to start the season with two losses in a row, so we need to be ready for a tough game at BMO.
Meanwhile, things are just peachy in the TFC camp. Wait, did I say peachy? I meant miserable. We lost 4-2 in Vancouver and the fans are frustrated and restless. And who can blame them? How many clubs feel like they are in their expansion year 5 seasons in a row? It looks like BMO won’t be packed on Saturday like days of old, which should wake up some of the big guys in the head office. I think, as long as the support that shows up backs the team in full voice it will be ok. Winter mentioned how he is looking forward to having a twelfth man and I think it would be great if BMO gave him and the new team a hearty welcome.
Even though we enjoyed most of the possession in our previous game, we failed to do much with it. Our defense looked shaky, which is an understatement, but we still managed to score two goals away from home. It’s obvious though that we’re still smarting from our opening game loss. Here’s what Adrian Cann had to say about it:
“Everyone was off. We weren’t on the same wavelength; communication-wise, the organization, everything was off. Marking, closing down the space, closing down the man, passing off the man, sequence. All-in-all it was off. It was our first game but at the same time, you have to learn from your mistakes. I think moving forward, we know what we did wrong. We went through everything. I think the players know what they did wrong. I think moving forward you need to improve on the mistakes and build from that.”
I’m not sure if we can play much worse than we did against the Whitecaps. Dear god, I hope we can’t play much worse. In any case, I expect to see an improvement from the team on Saturday and a rethink of our backline. There doesn’t seem to be any new injuries and de Guzman is still out for a little while. Alan Gordon has finally sorted out his passport issues and joined up with the team in Toronto. Here’s my best guess at a starting lineup.
Frei Gargan-Cann-Attakora-Yourassowsky Sturgis-DeRo-Zavarise Martina-Maicon-Petersen Bench: Kocic, Harden, Omphroy, Cordon, Soolsma, Bouchiba, Gordon
Bench: Kocic, Harden, Omphroy, Cordon, Soolsma, Bouchiba, Gordon
Ok, so it’s pretty much what I guessed last week’s lineup would be. I only had two picks wrong with Yourassowsky and Zavarise. Frankly, Cann was terrible as a leftback so I am hoping that we see him back together with Nana in the centre of our defense. Harden had a mare, so we won’t be missing him too much if he doesn’t start. I know Yourassowsky is a bit raw still (get your mind out the gutter!) but he has to be the best option we have so far at leftback. The Gargan didn’t have a particularly good game in our last outing, but we don’t have a lot of depth at fullback, so I expect he will be starting. The rest of the team picks itself a bit. Soolsma started previously, but was taken off at halftime due to quite the vestigial performance. He may start again, but I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say Zavarise might get the nod ahead of him. DeRo and Frei keep their spots as always. Maicon scored a great goal for us last week and I think does well for us up front plus Gordon only just joined up with the team, so I think we will see Maicon lead the line again.
We really need a win, and what better time to do it than at BMO against an expansion team? If we lose, or even draw, I suspect the mood around TFC will be more down than ever. I believe we have a good management team now that needs a bit of time, but we need to see some shining lights of progress this weekend to give us all a bit more hope.
Come on you Reds!
Toronto FC v Portland Timbers will be broadcast on TSN Live at 2:00pm ET
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