The Portland Timbers comes into this match attempting to reverse their early season struggles. The second year MLS club sits at the bottom of the Western Conference table with only 9 points earned through their first ten games played. A 0-0 draw in Houston on Tuesday night marked their fourth consecutive match without scoring a goal on their own. Their last tally came from an own goal by Sporting Kansas City on April 21.
The Timbers were running on fumes in the second half of the Houston game but goalkeeper Troy Perkins kept them from suffering their sixth loss of the season. John Spencer has done a little juggling in the back trying to find the best defensive combinations. The latest bit of maneuvering involved moving midfielder Jack Jewsbury from a holding spot to right back in the last two games. Jewsbury left the Houston match early with an injury but is listed as probable for this match. Centerback Futty Danso is serving a one game suspension for striking Calen Carr in the head while attempting to prevent a breakaway chance so Eric Brunner will likely resume a starting spot next to Hanyer Mosquera. Steven Smith, Mike Chabala, and Rodney Wallace have all played on the left side. Wallace has recently moved into a left mid spot.
Spencer seems to have settled on a central midfield combination of Lovel Palmer and Diego Chara after moving team captain Jewsbury into the back line. With players working their way back into fitness he has a few other options he can call upon as well. Franck Songo'o has seen the bulk of the playing time at right mid but Spencer has former FC Dallas man Eric Alexander at his disposal. If Wallace doesn't start on the left side, Sal Zizzo is an option there.
The forward tandem of choice lately has been Darlington Nagbe and Kris Boyd, who have scored three goals apiece this season. Mike Fucito and the disappointing Jorge Perlaza are on the bench available for selection. Nagbe can also play outside if needed.
Frank Klopas has three matches in the next seven days to contend with but expect the first choice eleven in this game with possible fresh replacements against a short-handed FC Dallas side on Wednesday. The back line in front of Sean Johnson should be the same one that finished the match against Sporting KC last weekend. Gonzalo Segares, Austin Berry, Jalil Anibaba, and Dan Gargan from left to right. Anibaba and Berry will have to be wary of long balls into the box as Portland tends to play a more direct style that will challenge Johnson and Fire defenders in the air.
Midfield shouldn't see any changes until Wednesday either with Klopas likely to continue using the 4-5-1 formation that has produced a bit more offensively of late. Patrick Nyarko and Marco Pappa on the outside should get some chances against Portland's defense. I think the central midfield combination of Pavel Pardo, Logan Pause, and Sebastian Grazzini in an advanced spot also matches up well with Portland's style and personnel. Palmer is dangerous from distance and Chara is considered their playmaker although he hasn't managed one goal or one assist this year.
Dominic Oduro should be able to get behind Brunner and Mosquera more than once.
PORTLAND TIMBERS -- QUESTIONABLE: DF Futty Danso (L hamstring strain); PROBABLE: MF Jack Jewsbury (pelvic sprain)
CHICAGO FIRE -- OUT: DF Cory Gibbs (R knee meniscus repair); MF Steven Kinney (R Achilles tendinitis); DF Arne Friedrich (R hamstring strain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Chris Rolfe (L ankle sprain)
Rain played a big part in the match between these two clubs last season at Jeld Wen but the forecast for tomorrow appears to be dry. This should favor the Fire as they will probably look to keep the ball on the ground, defend the long ball, and look to counter. Portland has been decent but beatable at home this season going 2-2-1. Can the Fire build upon a good showing against two of the best teams in the league by defeating one of the worst?
Fire 1 Timbers 0
- Former Fire head coach Carlos De Los Cobos has landed a new gig approximately one year after being dismissed from Chicago. He's the new head coach at Queretaro in the Mexico. Querataro finished second to last in 2012's Clausura with a 2-9-6 record.
- Chris Rolfe continued running this week and started some light ball work. Road debut in Columbus?