Timbers Flounder in Seattle, Now Face Colorado at Home

The Timbers Army learned last Sunday that a predictable loss is no less painful. Portland was defeated 2-0 by the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field. The tired and injury stricken backline couldn’t hold off Major League Soccer’s leading attack featuring Clint Dempsey and Gonzalo Pineda. Things won’t get much easier for Portland as they return home to play the Colorado Rapids.

Portland started off the match well and held their own for 45 minutes. Steve Zakuani had a nice strike in the first fifteen, but put his chance wide left. Gonzalo Pineda’s stoppage time header nearly put the Sounders up before halftime before being saved by a diving Donovan Ricketts. Aside from a yellow card being issued to Osvaldo Alonso that was it for any first half action.

Both clubs came out from the break with newfound energy, looking for the opening goal. Obafemi Martins came on for Chad Barrett in the 51st and things took a turn for the worse for Portland. The Nigerian’s pace and energy completely dismantled the Timbers’ defense. Seattle struck first in the 71st minute. A corner was put in and struck by Clint Dempsey which forced Ricketts into a Save of the Week nominated double save. Ricketts blocked the first shot only as far as Obafemi Martins who put the ball right back into the keeper’s chest. Fanendo Adi knocked the out of the box only to be picked up by Gonzalo Pineda. His strike went wide right, but a lurking Deuce was kept onside by Will Johnson and calmly redirected it into goal. 1-0 Seattle.

At this point Caleb Porter had to move his men forward in search of an equalizer. The downside to this is that with no replacements for the backline, Obafemi Martins, Marco Pappa, and Clint Dempsey would all have free reign to move into space and counter quickly. This is exactly what happened in the 86th minute.

A breakaway of Neagle, Dempsey, Martins, and Pappa rush towards a two-man Portland defense of O’Rourke and McKenzie. Predictably, the two Timbers committed and Neagle passed off to an open Pappa at the top of the 18. Pappa easily put the ball past Ricketts for a 2-0 Seattle Sounders victory.

Portland now looks to bounce back when they face the Colorado Rapids in Providence Park this Friday at 8 PM PT. The Rapids sit four spots above the eighth place Timbers with a six point gap separating them. At risk of sounding like a broken record, this is a huge game for Portland. Caleb Porter has to find a way to get his defense to overcome a negative home goal differential. But at this point in the season it’s looking more and more like Liam Ridgewell is our only hope.

Speaking of the new DP, will he start this week? I think there’s a pretty good chance that he does after making the 18 in seattle. Like most fans I’m sick of the Rauwshan McKenzie show. McKenzie has actually been pretty good, but he isn’t a week-in, week-out MLS starter. With Norberto Paparatto and Pa Modou Kah still out, a regular, top-caliber player is what Portland needs. I’m all in on Ridgewell as that option after buying a jersey this week. Now it’s just a matter of what Porter thinks of Englishman’s fitness.

Aside from the possibility of a Ridgewell debut the Timbers’ lineup should be relatively the same as it was in Seattle. The only additional change I expect is the insertion of Gaston Fernandez for Steve Zakuani. La Gata is a magician. His tricks don’t always pay off, but he’s capable of pulling surprises out of thin air and closing a deficit quickly.

Colorado has been performing fantastically in 2014. They’re sitting at fourth in the West and tied with the LA Galaxy with 27 points. Head coach Pablo Mastroeni has a tendency to change his lineups to best suit each opponent, much like Caleb Porter is known to. This makes it hard to predict a lineup, but there are three players suspended for the Rapids which makes things a bit easier.

Defender Shane O’Neill and midfielder Vicente Sanchez are both suspended due to harsh tackles. Nick LaBrocca is also suspended due to yellow card accumulation. Sanchez will be sorely missed by Colorado as he’s their leading scorer and one of their best creators. O’Neill absence helps Portland by taking away some of the Rapids’ aerial threat.

Projected Lineups:

Portland Timbers: Donovan Ricketts; Jorge Villafana, Liam Ridgewell, Danny O’Rourke, Michael Harrington; Will Johnson, Diego Chara; Darlington Nagbe, Gaston Fernandez, Diego Valeri; Fanendo Adi

Colorado Rapids: Clint Irwin; Chris Klute, Drew Moor, Jared Watts, Marvell Wynne; Kamani Hill, Gabriel Torres, Dillon Powers, Marlon Hairston, Dillon Serna; Deshorn Brown