Wade Barrett will be looking to get his first MLS win since being appointed the interim head coach. He's recorded 3 points in 3 games and while a "3 game unbeaten streak" has a nice ring to it, the fact that the team hasn't earned a win in that time is disheartening. Barrett and the Dynamo will go into hostile territory playing the Portland Timbers at Providence Park.
In our preview of the match we discussed the personnel of the Timbers, but we wanted to know more about the reigning champs so we spoke with Will Conwell of Stumptown Footy to get a handle on the early struggles and home successes his team has had this season.
Dynamo Theory: As the reigning MLS Cup champions, the fan base has to be a little upset about the 8th place Timbers despite being just a few points out from 4th place, What are the general sentiments about how the squad is performing, and are those sentiments close to pre-season expectations?
Stumptown Footy: Early in the season the phrase "won cup, don't care" was bandied about as the Timbers struggled through a series of injuries and generally did not show the form that most fans were hoping for from the defending champs. Now, removed from the halfway point of the season by only today's match, that refrain is ringing a little hollow.
For the most part, folks agree that the Timbers are a talented and deep team, particularly in the attack. However, the Timbers have not had much luck on the defensive end, a facet of the club that most assumed would be a strength coming into this season. That, combined with some agitating for a transfer from star striker Fanendo Adi, has people doing some significant worrying right now.
Still, the Timbers are on an upward trajectory, having just managed to grab their first shutout of the season and riding a five game unbeaten streak against MLS competition. If the Timbers can continue picking up points at their current pace, the season could turn around quickly.
Dynamo Theory: The Portland Timbers have an impressive home record this season and are currently sitting on a 3 game winning streak at Providence Park. What has made the Timbers so difficult to match up against at home and why have the Timbers struggled so much away from home?
Stumptown Footy: This is, of course, the case for almost every team in MLS: home field advantage is a huge factor. For teams like Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids there is one clear thing that can be pointed to that supercharges their home field advantage: altitude. For a team like the Timbers, what it is that makes home field advantage so strong can be hard to pin down. Is it the rabid fans seated (although never actually seated) in the North End? Is it the chainsaw revving "mascot", Timber Joey? Is it that fresh Cascadian air?
Most likely it is all of the above, but there is another possibility as well: compared to the rest of the league, the Timbers are not that great at home. Five other teams in the Western Conference have fewer home losses than the Timbers. League-wide, that number jumps to twelve of MLS's other nineteen teams.
So, what makes the Timbers so good at home? It's hard to say, but they could use a little bit more of it if they want to be back among the league's elite by the end of the season.
Dynamo Theory: In Houston, Jermaine Taylor often divided many fans. He was extremely talented, often likened to another former Dynamo Bobby Boswell in regard to his toughness and strength, but his decision making and lack of speed led to poor challenges or soft goals. How has Taylor fit in with the Timbers and how has he been received by the fans?
Stumptown Footy: Taylor's time in Portland has been something of a mixed bag. While he is certainly regarded as a talented and physically impressive player, the Timbers are coming off a year when they sported a defense that was arguably one of the league's best. With losses from that lineup and injuries plaguing the team in 2016, however, Taylor has been asked to fill a number of roles and he has yet to excel in any of them.
A strong placeholder more than anything else, Taylor has not made any position his own, despite the Timbers' glaring hole at left back and some suspect performances from the center back duo of Liam Ridgewell and Nat Borchers. His struggles can be at least partially put on the constant roster churn along the back line this season, but the fact remains that with just a few less goals allowed, the Timbers would be right in the thick of things, rather than on the outside looking in.
Projected Lineup: Gleeson; Taylor, Ridgewell, Borchers, Valentin; Chara, Zemanski; Melano, Valeri, Asprilla; Adi
For my answers to Will's questions, check them out at Stumptown Footy!