The Portland Timbers come to town for the first of two visits to Frisco this Saturday.
Portland opened up their season this past Monday with a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union. Goals came from all over the pitch as rookie defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste, striker Kris Boyd and midfielder Kalif Alhassan each registered their first goals of the season.
The road has never been a kind place to the Portland Timbers since joining Major League Soccer. Last year John Spencer’s club went a meager 2-9-6 away from JELD-WEN Field, including a 4-0 defeat in Frisco.
Much like FC Dallas, Portland too shares a special bond with players from Colombian.
Spencer went out this offseason and signed two young Colombians to their roster. Defender Hanyer Mosquera made the switch from La Equidad and Jose Adolfo Valencia signed on as a Young Designated Player. Unfortunately for Valencia he is sidelined for the season with a knee injury.
Valencia and Mosquera join fellow countrymen Diego Chara and Jorge Perlaza. The center-midfielder Chara is another Designated Player for the Timbers and is widely seen as one of the better attacking players on the Portland’s roster.
Perlaza will be up top with another one of Portland’s Designated Players in Scottish striker Kris Boyd.
Timbers in the attack
Spencer runs a typical 4-4-2 formation with Perlaza and Boyd running up top. Both played a key role in the 3-1 win against the Union in the season opener. Perlaza went the full 90 while Boyd was subbed out late in the game after scoring his first MLS goal.
Portland can also turn to Bright Dike for some offense off the bench as well as Darlington Nagbe. The second-year Nagbe is capable of playing up top or on the flanks in the midfield. He came off the bench against Philadelphia and could easily start on Saturday in Frisco.
Most of the Timbers offense comes from their midfield. Alhassan provided a goal and an assist against Philadelphia while team captain Jack Jewsbury chipped in two assists of his own. Jewsbury is effective at distributing the ball to each side of the field behind Chara.
Behind Chara and Jewsbury on the bench are James Marcelin and newcomer Franck Songo’o. Both can play a role in the middle of the field and will likely come off the bench.
Spencer has plenty of options out wide, most notably with Alhassan and Nagbe. Other options include former FC Dallas midfielder Eric Alexander and Rodney Wallace.
Injuries are going to limit what Spencer can do in the back. Mamadou “Futty” Danso and David Horst are both out with injuries. The Timbers will miss their height and physicality. Expect rookie Jean-Baptiste and Eric Brunner to get the start in the middle.
Brunner is the most experienced of the bench, as he played the most minutes in the Timbers defense a season ago.
At the fullback positions, expect to see Lovel Palmer on the left with Rodney Wallace on the right. Both players add pace to the flanks for Spencer and enjoy getting into the attack.
Troy Perkins will stand between the pipes. Last year he was fairly consistent in goal, posting nine shutouts with a 1.31 goals against average.
Tale of the tape
Portland remains to be one of the deadliest teams on set pieces in Major League Soccer. Dallas has to continue to be smart in their defensive third as Portland has the type of players up top that love drawing fouls.
Jewsbury has a number of big targets this year for his set pieces. Boyd will be a handful in the penalty box as well if he is given enough space to roam free.
Dallas will have to direct the tempo of this game through the midfield and on the flanks. Portland can be beaten with pace on the wings and is vulnerable in the middle of their defense.
Expect a physical game from these two sides, as each will be looking to start a winning streak here early on in this new season.