We're all about the inter-blog connectivity around here at SB Nation, so ahead of tomorrow's match against the Portland Timbers I exchanged some questions with Geoff Gibson of Stumptown Footy, our excellent Portland blog. All the wonderful info he provided on Portland is below, you can find my answers to his questions about our Rapids over on SF.
BW: Portland will be missing both Lovel Palmer and Hayner Mosquera due to suspension, how will each of them being out affect this game and the line up that the Timbers put out?
SF: Well, for Lovel Palmer, his being suspended will give somebody more worthy a chance on the bench and not allow him to seriously screw it up. He was reckless last Sunday against Seattle. There was no need for the elbow and his only other contribution was a worthless shot from 30 yards away that sent the ball into space which then promptly gave possession back to Seattle who used it to pummel the Timbers' goal for a few more minutes.
Mosquera, on the other hand, is a player who is missed. Both Futty Danso and David Horst came up big last week against Seattle, so perhaps the depth is there to sustain them. We're still figuring that out. But Mosquo is, by far, the Timbers' best defender and his absence will certainly be felt, especially against the likes of Omar Cummings and Conor Casey.
BW: There were some murmurs about John Spencer perhaps being on the chopping block after Portland's lackluster start to the year, how much did the Seattle result change that? Is he still not expected to make it to the end of the year if the results don't improve dramatically?
SF: I don't know. That was the Oregonian's deal with the rumor spreading and it was reckless journalism at best. I'm not really sure what's happening with his job. You can tell he's feeling pressure but that's normal. My guess is that he'll see the season out regardless of what happens, and he'll be judged based on those results. Not that the Seattle Sounders win didn't help his position, but I'm not sure I would have jumped on the bandwagon saying he was going to be fired if he didn't win. We didn't report that on Stumptown Footy.
I will say that even if the season doesn't get turned around, I don't want the Timbers FO to just fire him and hire somebody right off the bat as we see some other teams doing in mid-season. Finding a good coach is a long, difficult process. I would prefer they still let Specer see the season out and use the time for finding somebody who can really make an impact on the team.
BW: Kris Boyd and Darlington Nagbe are the big names I know to watch out for on the Timbers offense, who else that I don't know as much about might come in and make some noise offensively for Portland?
The next biggest name now will be Danny Mwanga, the former Philadelphia Union star, who was recently traded to the Timbers. He sits right behind Boyd in a sort of withdrawn striker position that allows him to either take a shot from 15-ish yards away or find Boyd and pass it off to him. He's still new though and he's working his way in with the team, but from what we've seen so far the partnership between Boyd and Mwanga could be fantastic going forward.
Aside from that, the usual names will crop up: Kalif Alhassan will consistently dribble between defensive backlines, although he'll be out for Saturday's game. He can be very frustrating for an opponent. Sal Zizzo will run, run, and run some more. He's got some killer speed that will run a team ragged. Franck Songo'o, the left winger, is honing his vision and knack for crosses with each game. Even left back Steven Smith is becoming more dangerous as we saw against Seattle when he was able to run up the side and get a quick low-cross to Boyd who scored. It was quite beautiful, really.
BW: Starting lineup prediction?
Troy Perkins; Jack Jewsbury, David Horst, Futty Danso, Steven Smith; Sal Zizzo, Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Franck Songo'o; Danny Mwanga, Kris Boyd
Once again, thanks so much to Geoff at Stumptown Footy, check em out.