Gameday No. 2 is coming up quickly. This week, the Rapids will be facing off against the league's drawing machine, Caleb Porter's Portland Timbers. I had a question session with Micheal Orr of Stumptown Footy regarding the ins and outs of the Timbers. Here's what he had to say to my questions:
BW: After scoring two goals in two games, we'll make sure to keep an eye on Gaston Fernandez. What other newcomers to the Timbers might make a big impact on Saturday?
SF: Fernandez has shown a nice knack for popping up in the right place at the right time. Were he to start the game at forward, instead of just finish it, he might be even more dangerous. But that's unlikely to happen this week as Steve Zakuani just isn't fit enough to start on the left yet. The other newcomer who will start is Norberto Paparatto, the center back who gave up last week's penalty with his foul on Quincy Amarikwa. Paparatto has been fine in general, but he has had lapses that have been risky for the Timbers. Whether good or bad, he'll have an impact on the game.
BW: Tactically, what is the best way to break the Timbers down? What's the team's greatest weakness? Conversely, what's their greatest strength? Does it count as more than three questions if I ask multiple every number?
SF: Philadelphia provided a few nice examples of drawing one or both of the Timbers holding midfielders (Diego Chara/Will Johnson) too far forward and then hitting a quick counter attack through the middle. With Maurice Edu and Cristian Maidana, it worked very efficiently and left Portland scrambling a bit. There also isn't a lot of width in the team at the moment, especially if there is early pressure from forwards on the center backs. Porter has had to ask his fullbacks (Michael Harrington and Jack Jewsbury) to hang back and help cover when the central defenders are struggling. That leaves quite a lot of space on the sidelines as Nagbe/Valeri/Fernandez all drift inward, no matter their starting point.
The strengths are when everything is clicking and the inverse of everything described above is true: Smart, complementary play by holding midfielders, center backs holding their own, one or both fullbacks bombing forward to provide width and four talented attackers combining near the box.
BW: Last season, Portland had 15 ties in 34 games. So far this year, they're two for two. Why do Porter's Timbers teams get so many draws? Do you think the mythical 34-tie season is going to be in play this year?
SF: The Timbers are slow starters in terms of goal scoring under Porter. He's a fantastic tactician and his adjustments at halftime often yield second half results. But not necessarily wins. I really can't explain how so many games finish level but now 17 of 36 regular season games under Porter have ended level. Most folks in Portland would probably prefer to see more home games finish with three points than one but taking a point from away games is perfectly acceptable. These two teams played to a 2-2 in March of last season and a somewhat similar outcome would not be overly surprising again this weekend.
GK Donovan Ricketts
LB Michael Harrington
CB Norberto Paparatto
CB Pa Modou Kah
RB Jack Jewsbury
CM Diego Chara
CM Will Johnson
LM Gaston Fernandez
ACM Diego Valeri
RM Darlington Nagbe
F Maximiliano Urruti
Bench: Andrew Weber, Ben Zemanski, Futty Danso, Michael Nanchoff, Steve Zakuani, Alvas Powell
Rodney Wallace OUT (ACL surgery recovery)
Steven Evans OUT (back)
Kalif Alhassan DOUBTFUL (groin strain)
Thanks again to Micheal, check out Stumptown Footy for any Timbers info you need going into the game on Saturday.