The playoff push for FC Dallas heats up as the club travels west to Oregon to play the Portland Timbers on Saturday in a crucial Western Conference battle at JELD-WEN Field.
Dallas is 0-1-1 this season against Caleb Porter’s club in MLS play. The last visit to Portland didn’t go so well for Dallas as the Timbers won that June 15 meeting 1-0 on a Darlington Nagbe goal while FCD and Portland tied 1-1 in the first meeting of the season in Frisco.
Portland also dropped Dallas from the US Open Cup earlier this summer in a thrilling 3-2 match.
The Timbers are coming off a bye-week in league play after losing in the US Open Cup semifinals last Wednesday in Salt Lake. The Timbers are in a bit of a slump in league play, going 1-2-2 in their last five matches.
The injury list for Portland still has a slew of players out on long-term injuries. Defenders Futty Danso, David Horst, Mikael Silvestre and Dylan Tucker-Gangnes are all sideline with various injuries.
The big question marks for Portland going into this weekend’s game are midfielder Will Johnson, who picked up a shoulder injury in the USOC semifinal against Salt Lake last week. Frederic Piquionne is also questionable after suffering an injury against Vancouver a couple weeks ago.
Blas Perez vs Pa-Modou Kah – Perez missed the last regular season match against Portland and will be facing off against one of the newer Timbers defenders. Kah is a big defender that loves to play physical with the opposition. He’s started nine games for the Timbers since joining them back in May. Kah does get into some card trouble and that could play into Perez’s advantage if he can cause an early yellow in this match.
Rodney Wallace vs Kellyn Acosta – The young Homegrown for Dallas showed well in his first start last weekend against LA. Should he start against Portland, he’ll have more speed to deal with this weekend on the wings with Wallace. The Costa Rican does well in space and has been one of the more underrated players for the Timbers this season.
Key Player for Portland
Darlington Nagbe – He is a Dallas killer as some would say. In the two previous meetings with Portland, Nagbe has been the difference maker for the Timbers scoring in both games. His six goals and three assists put him near the top of the Timbers attacking statistics.
Porter lately has been employing a 4-3-3 formation this season though you could argue that at times it resembles more of a 4-2-1-3.
Goalkeeper: Donovan Ricketts; RB: Michael Harrington; CB: Pah Madou Kah, Andrew Jean-Baptiste; LB: Jack Jewsbury; RM: Diego Chara; CM: Diego Valeri; LM: Will Johnson; RW: Rodney Wallace; LW: Darington Nagbe; FW: Ryan Johnson
Keys to three points
One slump is over for Dallas after last week’s 3-3 draw against LA. The scoring has returned in a big way, which is what Schellas Hyndman and his staff needed to see before this road trip to Portland and Chivas USA.
In the three previous meetings this year against Portland, Dallas has actually played the Timbers better than most MLS clubs have. When you spread this Timbers team out, using the width of the field as much as possible, good things tend to happen.
Dallas will need to rely on their wing play as well as taking advantage of their set piece chances. Portland does foul more than the average club and will put themselves in bad spots defensively if they are pressured enough.
Defensively, Dallas has to keep an eye on what Nagbe, Diego Valeri and Ryan Johnson do on and off the ball. They also need to be smart in possession. The Timbers do well on the counter attack and pose a great threat up front with the speed that they have.
Dallas showed well last week to get the scoreless streak off their back, now it is time to focus on getting three points again. Portland is a team that is rested but is also potentially looking ahead to their big clash with Seattle next week. If Dallas can catch them napping early on in this one, they could find themselves in a position to leave Portland with three big points.