With the LA Galaxy about to take on the Portland Timbers this Saturday, we've exchanged the customary three questions with SB Nation Timbers blog Stumptown Footy. We got answers to questions about the Timbers' back line, who is the no. forward, and do the boys from Portland believe they can pull off the upset? My answers to their questions will be posted later.
1. Twice this season the Galaxy and Timbers have played to a stalemate. Are those results still germane after watching the full strength version of LA play a defensively weakened Seattle?
1. (cop out alert) Hard to say. Though the Timbers were not quite at the full strength they are now, by which I mean adding both Fanendo Adi and Liam Ridgewell, they did feature a pretty strong line up in both games against the Galaxy. Ridgewell's inclusion does make a significant difference in defense, though Danny O'Rourke did his best over the weekend to prove that adding a Premier League defender does not necessarily bring the tide in to raise all ships. At present, Diego Valeri is in top form, and though he did score two of the three previous goals against LA this season, he is really something else right now. And yet, with all of that said, what the Galaxy did to the Seattle Sounders on Monday night would have easily destroyed this Timbers team. Will it play out the same way at 11:30am on a Saturday in front of 20ish thousand fans? Probably not, but assuming a third draw is automatic would be to overstate the Timbers' mini renaissance.
2. Who is the Timbers' no. 1 forward this season? Is it Urruti? Is it Adi? Or has it been a bricolage of whomever is available?
2. That is a game-by-game question. Caleb Porter has previously pulled Maximiliano Urruti after scoring a brace, inserting Adi (who scored a brace himself in that very game), so nothing is off the table as far as that goes. But at the moment Adi has struggled to find the form that led the Timbers to buy him on a full-time (and Designated Player) basis from FC Kobenhavn. Urruti has scored in each of the past two games after a long injury absence and is currently leading the team in scoring with eight goals. Porter has no qualms about rotating through the likes of Steve Zakuani, Gaston Fernandez and Rodney Wallace to go alongside Darlington Nagbe and Valeri. So there is no guaranteed front four, though it's all but certain the four will come from that group of seven.
3. What's the status of the Timbers' back line? Has it settled into a standard lineup or is it still a motley group of four?
3. One day either Pa Modou Kah or Norberto Paparatto will return to join Ridgewell in central defense. Until then, it's O'Rourke with some combination of Michael Harrington, Jack Jewsbury and Jorge Villfana filling the outside roles. While Ridgewell's introduction was very productive in the 2-1 defeat of Colorado Rapids at home, it did little to prevent Montreal Impact from scoring twice in the first half last weekend. For the Timbers to have any chance of making the playoffs, they've got to provide their attacking players with a chance to win 1-0 or 2-1 on a more regular basis. Allowing two goals to Montreal, the league's lowest scoring team, only sets up the rest of the team for failure. As it happened, Wallace and Valeri combined to produce a late winner but Portland needs to find results through a good defensive effort. Playing a hot Galaxy team is probably not the place to start that trend.
Bonus: Which Timber would make the best cable television detective?
I had to think a lot about this. Will Johnson would probably be the worst, takes himself way too seriously. Michael Harrington could work but only on network tv. Too much of a goober. So I guess it falls to Gaston Fernandez. Though he doesn't do much by way of English, he's always in the right place at the right time, he often saves the day but without all the fanfare...wait, Fernandez might just be Penny Brown. And Inspector Gadget was on cable!
Known absences: Pa Modou Kah