Will Bruin has been on fire for the Dynamo these past few weeks. His six goals in the last five games have been good for 10 of a possible 15 points. However, the Timbers too have found their stride as of late winning four of their last six matches. With both of these clubs coming off midweek wins in the US Open Cup and valuable Western Conference points up for grabs, tonight’s game in Portland is sure to be a thriller.
Earlier this week Portland took on Seattle in a US Open Cup match for the records. The Sounders ended the match with just seven men for their first ever loss in a USOC match at Starfire Stadium. Diego Valeri started that match, so he probably won’t see the field tonight at least until the back half. In his place should be Gaston Fernandez who has been playing to the level I expected him to start the season with. However, how will he fare if Adi starts? Last match Adi scored twice while on the pitch with Gaston, but the pair haven’t started together in 2015. Also in the mix will be both Will Johnson and Diego Chara. Both fresh and ready to lock down the midfield.
On the Dynamo side of things Giles Barnes and Jermaine Taylor are both out this week due to national team duty. The lack of Barnes up top is easily the most beneficial as he has been picking defenses apart as of late. This should make it at least a touch easier for Portland while defending set pieces. Barnes sitting underneath Bruin has been instrumental in the club’s recent run of form. With him out, I’m not sure where coach Owen Coyle will go.
However, it’s easy to know who takes the place of Taylor: Kofi Sarkodie. Surprisingly, Sarkodie has a better Clean sheet rate when starting than Taylor. Houston has recorded just three clean sheets and Kofi started in each of them.
No matter who is playing, this match will come down to set pieces. If Portland can defend them, they likely win. If not, they won’t. It’s as simple as that. Liam Ridgewell will be back in the lineup to help with this, but it’s a tough choice between Nat Borchers and Norberto Paparatto. Papa is better in the air than Nat and has been playing greatly as of late. Though Borchers has also been fantastic. I’m giving the edge to the slightly younger man, Paparatto, after each played Wednesday against Seattle.
Portland Timbers: Kwarasey; Villafana, Ridgewell, Borchers, Powell; Johnson, Chara; Wallace, Fernandez, Nagbe; Adi
Houston Dynamo: Deric; Beasley, Horst, Rodriguez, Sarkodie; Davis, Clark, Garrido, Garcia; Miranda; Bruin