The Fire will face an old nemesis in forward Kenny Cooper who always seemed to manage a goal against Chicago while playing for FC Dallas. Cooper is Portland's main offensive weapon and tallied the Timbers first ever MLS goal on opening night against Colorado. He's joined up top by 25 year old Colombian Jorge Perlaza. Perlaza played with newly acquired designated player Diego Chara at Deportes Tolima in Colombia. Chara is a midfielder but will not be available until his "paperwork" clears and he joins the team some time in the next ten days.
In midfield top draft choice Darlington Nagbe returned from injury in the second half of Portland's last MLS match on April 2. Nagbe figures to be a starter on the left side in place of Ryan Pore who has started two of their three league matches. Another player returning from injury, Sal Zizzo could get the call on the opposite side although Kalif Alhassan and Jeremy Hall have both seem time early on this season. James Marcelin and Jack Jewsbury play in the middle. Jewsbury, the team captain, was acquired from Kansas City during the offseason for what seemed to be a bargain deal of allocation money. Peter Lowry is doubtful with a knee injury.
Portland's back line includes some MLS veterans but isn't particularly impressive or fast. Eric Brunner and Kevin Goldthwaite are the central pairing with Rodney Wallace and Steve Purdy on the left and right sides of the four man back line. Jake Gleeson has started the last two games in goal (including a USOC win against Chivas USA) due to injuries to Troy Perkins and Adin Brown.
Carlos De Los Cobos hinted at the possibility of resting some of the usual starters in lieu of having to play another match in Chicago in less than three days but I'm guessing he'll go for the points when they're available and play most of the starters in this match. Particularly in light of the developments last night in Toronto. Both David Beckham and Juninho will be unavailable for Sunday's match up. Both players will be serving mandatory yellow card suspensions. Beckham received his fifth yellow of the season just before the half and Juninho picked up a second yellow just before the game concluded. Landon Donovan also appears to be questionable for the Galaxy with a knee injury and did not dress against Toronto.
Josip Mikulic was missed in Seattle and will not be available in Portland either. Dasan Robinson will get the call in his place for the second consecutive match and will team with Cory Gibbs to attempt marking Cooper. Gonzalo Segares and Jalil Anibaba are also sure bets to start.
De Los Cobos may opt to rest Patrick Nyarko early given the nasty knock he took over the weekend and the return to fitness of Bratislav Ristic. Davis Paul could also be in play for a spot. Marco Pappa isn't a likely candidate to sit and neither is Logan Pause. Marko Maric is available if the coach decides on a different look in place of Mike Videira, who has played well so far.
It's also hard to imagine that Gaston Puerari or Diego Chaves will sit to start the match in light of their work rate and production to date. The match up with Brunner and Goldthwaite should also be a favorable one for the Uruguayans.
OUT: Bright Dike F (R achilles rupture), Brian Umony F (R knee MCL sprain), David Horst D (R ankle sprain), Troy Perkins GK (R knee sprain), Adin Brown GK (hamstring strain); DOUBTFUL : Peter Lowry M (R knee MCL sprain); PROBABLE : Sal Zizzo M (R shoulder sprain)
OUT : Mike Banner M (L achilles tendinitis), Steven Kinney D (R achilles repair)
Much of the attention on this match has been centered on the Timbers and the opening of their newly renovated home stadium. MLSsoccer.com in particular is acting as if no other city in the league has a loud, filled to capacity arena. It seems that every question they've posed relates to dealing with the crowd.
Jeld Wen Field is certainly impressive looking and should provide a raucous and intimate setting for Portland fans. That being said, the game won't be decided by hoopla, opening ceremony giddiness, and a boisterous fan base. The Timbers are still an expansion team and their current roster reflects it.
What does play into Portland's favor is schedule. The Timbers last played an MLS match on April 2 so they've had some time to train, rest, and prepare at home while the Fire played in front of another loud crowd in Seattle last weekend. Seattle is a better team than Portland and Chicago should have come away with at least a draw if not for the efforts of Kasey Keller. Jake Gleeson is no Kasey Keller.
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