By Will Conwell
GAME 29: Portland Timbers (10W-12L-6T) vs San Jose Earthquakes (6W-11L-11T)¬Â¨
Wednesday, September 21, 7:30 p.m. KPDX
Previous match-up(s): 5/3/11 0-1 Loss (US Open Cup), 8/6/11 1-1 Tie @ San Jose
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Four days after facing down the New England Revolution the Timbers will once again take the pitch at Jeld-Wen Field against the San Jose Earthquakes as they continue their playoff surge. Riding a four game unbeaten streak, the Timbers will still need to take the full three points against San Jose, particularly with four of their last five games to be played on the road.
San Jose, who have only one win in their last ten games, are not yet eliminated from the playoffs and will want to make a playoff push of their own. However, with slim chances of actually playing in the post season, the Earthquakes have started giving game time to their youth players who are talented but unseasoned.
Among the San Jose Earthquakes youth to see playing time are three of their projected back line: Steven Beitashour, Nana Attakora, and Justin Morrow. All three have only been in the league for two years with Attakora being the most experienced, playing 25 games for Toronto in 2010. The Earthquakes final central defender, Bobby Burling, has been solid this season but is hardly a seasoned veteran himself at 26 years of age.
While the youth movement is a prudent investment in the future of the Earthquakes, the Timbers need to capitalize on their home field advantage and the inexperience of this San Jose team. After a mid-season rough patch, the Timbers home field advantage seemed to have disappeared but now the Timbers are looking in control at home once again.
The Timbers starting line-up will likely look the same as it did in Friday's 3-0 thumping of New England. David Horst and Jorge Perlaza should be ready to play in time for the game but excellent displays by Futty Danso returned from injury and Darlington Nagbe in his first game at forward will keep them on the bench.
San Jose has seen success this year when they are able to play a direct game with crosses in to star striker Chris Wondolowski. Wondo, last year's golden boot winner and one of the league's best pure finishers, is once again netting more than his fair share of goals. However, without a true target forward in the mold of Stephen Lenhart, who scored against the Timbers in the two club's meeting the the US Open Cup earlier this year, to draw defenders away Wondolowski has not been as effective. The Timbers defense will need to be sure to mark Wondolowski properly as he is capable of exploiting the slightest opening.
The San Jose defense is an athletic and physical bunch, but prone to being drawn out of position and committing fouls. If the Timbers can control the game as they did against New England, who also sport a young and athletic back line, they will be able to suck the Earthquakes defenders out of position and create shots on goal. The continued presence of Darlington Nagbe on the Timbers forward line will certainly help to maintain possession and move the ball about the pitch until an opening can be found as he is much more adept at holding the ball up than Kenny Cooper's usual strike partner, Jorge Perlaza.
In the center of the midfield, the Timbers' move to play Captain Jack Jewsbury as a defensive midfielder continues to pay dividends as Diego Chara is able to contribute more and more to the attack. Jewsbury will need to remain vigilant on defense as the Earthquakes direct style generally sees the ball moved quickly down the pitch to the San Jose attackers. If Jewsbury can stay back he will be able to disrupt these attacks and intercept a numbers of balls in the midfield.
TOP 5 GOAL SCORERS
1. Jack Jewsbury – 7
2. Jorge Perlaza – 6
3. Kenny Cooper – 5
4. Eric Brunner – 3
8. Tie: Rodney Wallace/Mamadu ¬Å“Futty¬Â Danso/Diego Chara/Darlington Nagbe – 2
NEXT 5 MATCHES
9/24 @ New York
10/2 @ Vancouver
10/14 vs Houston
10/19 @ DC
10/22 @ Salt Lake
The Timbers need to keep up their momentum and get another three points at home. As of right now the Timbers still sit one place outside the playoffs and the first team to slip up in the final games will likely be eliminated from playoff contention.