Champions League is done, the Supporter’s Shield is long gone, the US Open Cup resulted in nothing, now all that’s left is a single shot at making the 2014 MLS playoffs. The Portland Timbers need a win tonight in Texas against FC Dallas. Unfortunately, a win alone isn’t good enough to put Portland into the fifth place spot over the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Timbers also need a ‘Caps loss or draw against Colorado, a match that kicks off two hours after the PTFC. After the Timbers Army’s post-CCL loss Twitter depression earlier in the week, I don’t think anything but a win to end the season is acceptable. Even if the club doesn’t make the playoffs.
FC Dallas isn’t a team that can be underestimated. They’ve their last two matches straight and four of the last six. Even worse for Portland than their opponent’s good form is that they’ve something to play for: third place in the Western Conference. Michel has been on point and his set pieces are going to give the Timbers fits all match. On the purely offensive side, Blas Perez leads all scored with 11 and the speedy Fabian Castillo is just behind Perez with 10. Castillo is always dangerous, but I’m most concerned about Blas Perez finding a poorly cleared ball or Michel putting a dead ball on frame, catching Ricketts going the wrong way. As expected, Portland’s defense will win or lose the day.
Caleb Porter got a lot of flak for his starting lineup in Honduras. Defending duo Liam Ridgewell and Norberto Paparatto both unperformed, despite partnering for two straight shutouts in their most recent MLS matches. With Papa suspended due to yellow card accumulation, Ridgewell has to shake off his poor performance and shutdown FCD. Danny O’Rourke and Kalif didn’t pan out in CCL play, but their midweek start means Chara and Nagbe come into the starting lineup fresh. At least Portland’s CCL crash helps in some way. Perhaps Nagbe can find his first goal on the season season against the club he has singlehandedly destroyed in the past.
Portland Timbers: Donovan Ricketts; Jorge Villafana, Liam Ridgewell, Pa Modou Kah, Alvas Powell; Ben Zemanski, Diego Chara; Rodney Wallace, Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe; Fanendo Adi
FC Dallas: Raul Fernandez; Jair Benitez, Matt Hedges, Zach Lloyd, Je-Vaughn Watson; Adam Moffat, Victor Ulloa; Andres Escobar, Fabian Castillo; Tesho Akindele, Blas Perez