By Will Conwell
The game starts at 1:00 PM on ROOT Sports Network. If you do not have cable or want a good Portland establishment to enjoy with friends, we have a couple suggestions from our sponsors.
Watch Timbers Games in Portland:
East Burn (East Burnside & 18th) | (503) 236-2876 | More info: www.theeastburn.com
East Burn will have the game on a large projection screen on their heated patio and also downstairs. Recess discount menu from 3-6PM. They have daily drink specials (pdf of specials here).
Blitz (Ladd, Pearl, Tigard, NW 21) | More info: blitzbarpdx.webs.com
Blitz's FOUR locations will be happening as always with tons of televisions, drinks specials, and games (ping pong, shuffleboard, buckhunters, horseshoes in Tigard, and more).
Game Preview: Portland Timbers @ New England Revolution
Game 2: Portland Timbers (1W-0L-1T) @ New England Revolution (0W-2L-0T)
Saturday, March 24th, 1:00 p.m.
Previous match-up(s): 4/2/11 1-1 Away Tie, 9/16/11 3-0 Home Tie
Listen/Watch: ROOT, 750 AM: THE GAME, PortlandTimbers.com
The Portland Timbers will want to get off to a flying start against the New England Revolution today when the two teams meet in Foxborough. After slow starts against the Philadelphia Union and FC Dallas, the Timbers do not intend to tempt fate again by going down a goal in the opening minutes. Instead, the Timbers intend to put pressure on the Revolution from the beginning of the game. Although the Timbers are confident in their ability to come back from a deficit to win, something they had never done before the season opener against the Union, they also recognize that it is not something that they want to be doing every week.
Beyond starting faster than in their first two games, the Timbers will look to play their own game and to dictate play on the pitch. Portland will be coming up against a New England team beset by injuries and suspensions and who will likely look to slow play down by fielding a five man midfield featuring some aggressive, physical play. The Timbers will need to overcome the congestion likely to occur in the center of the pitch by passing well and stretching the field to create space in which to work.
Although Jorge Perlaza’s quick runs would be quite effective against this Revolution defense, it is about time to see Darlington Nagbe up top. Perlaza showed well in the season opener but his lackluster performance against FC Dallas did not bode well. Especially on the road, the Timbers need someone who can effectively hold up the ball and play with his back to the goal. Although John Spencer has yet to declare Nagbe fully game fit, it seems likely that he will get the start today.
On defense, the Timbers will need to be wary of committing themselves too far forward on the wings. Kelyn Rowe, New England’s much heralded first round draft pick, is a terror on the outside and has been an early prediction of many to be rookie of the year. Lovel Palmer, who has been battling illness for the last few days, will need to be monitored closely, as any fatigue issues could be punished by a powerful, if inexperienced, New England attack.
The Revolution are missing several key players to injury, including attacking midfielder Benny Feilhaber. New England is also in the midst of a personal crisis at the back, with defensive talent Darrious Barnes out injured and first teamer Stephen McCarthy suspended after incurring a very suspect red card in last week’s game against Seattle.
However, New England are not entirely missing their heavy hitters. The midfield will be manned by long-time Revolution star Shalrie Joseph and journeyman defensive midfielder Clyde Simms. Homegrown player and rising talent Diego Fagundez, who is only 17, will likely slide into the midfield in Feilhaber’s usual attacking role.
The biggest question mark about the Revolution is what formation they will actually take. Although it has become much more uncommon recently, New England preferred the 3-5-2 under former head coach (and the coach of current manager Jay Heaps) Steve Nicols and may adopt it for this game. Alternatively, the Revs may utilize the somewhat more common 4-5-1 against the Timbers. Although the 3-5-2 seems unlikely, New England’s remaining backs are an athletic bunch and would certainly be up for the task. If the Revolution do opt for this formation, the Timbers will need to put even more of an emphasis on spreading play out to the wings to take advantage of a sparse New England back line.
On offense, the Timbers will need to play quickly and accurately down the wings. Whatever personal decisions New England make, they will be packing the midfield with bodies and making things very difficult for Diego Chara and Jack Jewsbury to make meaningful contributions to the attack. It will be up to Kalif Alhassan and Eric Alexander to generate some offense and provide good service to Kris Boyd in the box. As he showed against Dallas, even with half-chances, Boyd can be very dangerous, so it will be up to the Timbers to get the ball to him early and often, rather than allowing their opponent’s defense to smother him.
On defense, the Timbers will need to be wary of getting overconfident. They are playing a team missing players and who have yet to score a goal in Major League Soccer this season and most are predicting a Timbers victory. However, New England remains a dangerous and capable team and the Timbers will need to put in the effort if they want to take all three points. The Timbers will also need to be mindful of their clearances today. Although the intense wind in Dallas was certainly a factor, a sharp difference could be seen between the clearances being made in the first half of the match against Dallas, which were just cleared to space, and those made in the second half, which were actually cleared to a player. By just trying to get the ball away, the Timbers got pinned into their own half and lost control of the game, something that they cannot afford to do again.
TIMBERS LEADING SCORERS
Kalif Alhassan – 1
Kris Boyd – 1
Andrew Jean-Baptiste – 1
Darlington Nagbe – 1
TIMBERS PREDICTED LINE-UP
Palmer (RB), Brunner (CB), Mosquera (CB), Wallace (LB)
Alexander (RM), Chara (CM), Jewsbury (CM), Alhassan (LM)
Boyd (F), Nagbe (F)
The Timbers are in a very good position to take all three points against the Revolution and they should expect to do so. The Timbers only won two games on the road last year so an early road win would go a long way toward establishing the Timbers as a force to be reckoned with in 2012.
Pipeline's Portland Timbers coverage by:
Will Conwell is an aspiring novelist who spends his free time unloading trucks in warehouses. His passions in life are soccer, beer, and writing, which he has found are best enjoyed in concert. Will can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at TimbersPipeline.