It's been really long offseason, but I don't have to tell you that. For the defending cup champs, the anticipation of getting back on our natural grass to defend the trophy has surely been itching at them for these last three months. If there's anyone who has wanted the season to start more, it's probably Portland fans. A team less expanded and more promoted, the Timbers rabid fanbase has surely been anticipating this day more than anyone.
Fortunately for both groups, it's finally time for MLS First Kick 2011 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado. The defending cup champion Colorado Rapids vs. the new but feisty Portland Timbers.Colorado will more than likely come into this game sporting the same starting lineup that it used against FC Dallas in the MLS Cup Final back in November. Through a series of shrewd and sometimes genius looking moves, coach Gary Smith kept the squad together brilliantly and although a slow draft - which wound up yielding nothing as first rounder Eddie Ababio was released yesterday - kept them down a bit they still managed to get a bit of depth all over the pitch, most notably at striker with new signing Caleb Folan, who may in fact play today.
The lineup of Pickens-Kimura-Moor-Wynne-Wallace-Mullan-Mastroeni-Larentowicz-Smith-Cummings-Casey has worked beautifully in the past for the Rapids and we'll hope to see the same sort of production that the squad put out last year near the end of the season as opposed to a typical Rapids slow start to the season. This is certainly a different squad than you saw snag the summer doldrums all those years in a row.
Portland is led by captain and former Sporting Kansas CIty player Jack Jewsbury, a recent addition to an already surprisingly talented lineup for the expansion boys from Portland. First round selection and highly touted player Darlington Nagbe will unfortunately not play in the moss green for the Timbers today.
Colorado is being underrated by just about every publication out there as a fluke team and still lacking apparent Landon Donovan star power without a Designated Player. This is the season where the Rapids can shut them up and it starts with today's match-up. Go Rapids!