Ahead of Saturday's match-up between the New York Red Bulls and Portland Timbers, we took a couple of minutes to sit down with Stumptown Footy Contributor Michael Orr to get a sense of what to expect on Saturday.
OaM: The Portland Timber have gotten off to a slow start this year (1-7-3 10 points), and currently sit in last in the Western Conference. What is happening to this team that has them starting sluggish?
SF: Early in the season, two issues plagued the Timbers: a lack of scoring and boneheaded defensive miscues. More recently, especially since the full-time return of Steve Zakuani, Portland has started to score some goals which has relieved some of the pressure off the struggling defense. Yet almost every week someone on the back line makes a terrible mistake or scores an own-goal, forcing the Timbers to score more just to keep the score level. Adding in injuries to Michael Harrington and Diego Chara and last weekend's red card for Alvas Powell, Portland now has a lack of personnel to add to its inability to keep a clean sheet.
OaM: You guys lost Alvas Powell last week to an early red card, and he was subsequently suspended for another two games for his tackle on Columbus Crew's Chad Barson. What will his absence mean for the team going into New York?
SF: Unless Michael Harrington has a miracle recovery, the likeliest scenario is that Jorge Villafana will start at left back and Jack Jewsbury will shift back to right back. Villafana came on after Powell's red card against Columbus but was substituted off late in the game for new forward Fandendo Adi as Portland pushed for a(nother) late equalizer. Expect him to start and play 90 minutes on Saturday, unless he too gets injured or the urge to send an opposing player flying into the air.
OaM: There are reports that Diego Chara might be able to play this week, albeit with a cast from a broken bone in his hand. What would his playing mean if is fit enough for New York?
SF: Chara's return would be welcome, of course, as he is consistently one of Caleb Porter's best players. A cast (or club) on his hand wouldn't do much to limit is mobility which is so key for how the Timbers set up in central midfield. That said, Ben Zemanski had a really nice game last weekend, mostly keeping a more defensive position and allowing Will Johnson greater freedom to sneak forward and aid in the attack. Most of that went to hell after Powell's red card but Zemanski did more than enough to earn Porter's consideration for this weekend.
SF: Portland has never beaten New York in MLS and has lost both games at Red Bull Arena. With their penchant for allowing at least one cheap goal each game and New York's obvious ability to score some interesting ones, it's hard to see the Timbers keeping the score low. But the upswing in scoring and the variations Adi allows for coming off the bench should give Portland enough to score a few themselves.