MatchDay Preview: Timbers host EPL's West Bromwich Albion at JELD-WEN Field
Coming off one of their strongest English Premier League efforts in years, West Bromwich Albion travels to the Pacific Northwest to challenge the Portland Timbers as presented by Verizon Wireless (8:00pm PT, webstream video at www.portlandtimbers.com, 750 AM The Game, La Pantera 940 AM). The team—often referred to by its nickname, the Baggies—finished 12-11-15 in 2010-11, good enough for 11th out of 20 teams in the EPL and sufficient to keep the squad entrenched in the England’s top flight for the sixth time since 2002.
West Bromwich opened its preseason schedule with a disappointing 2-1 defeat at the hands of the San Jose Earthquakes of MLS on July 12th. The loss was highlighted by a third-minute, 90-yard scoring strike by San Jose goalkeeper David Bingham, whose high flying goal kick took a vicious bounce over the head of Albion goaltender Boaz Myhill to open scoring.
The Baggies righted their offensive woes in their next preseason match in the U.S. against the Ventura County Fusion of the the PDL. West Bromwich notched three second-half goals en route to an impressive 4-2 victory. Attacking midfielder Graham Dorrans – whose creative play helped West Bromwich return to the EPL in 2010 – made a successful return from an ankle injury, scoring a arching free-kick goal in the third minute of the match to set the tone for WBA.
The Timbers are hoping the match will give younger players trying to prove their way into a bigger role quality minutes against a strong European club.
"It's a chance to prove something to John (Spencer) and put some pressure on him to make decisions,” said Timbers forward Eddie Johnson. ”It makes his job harder if guys are playing well, and it's good for the team."
The fact that the Baggies compete at a high level in the EPL is something that’s not lost on the players.
"It's a good experience, obviously, playing against premier-league competition,” said Johnson, a native-born Englishman. "Recently they've stayed awful tough to beat, a typical English side, which I think is pretty similar to the way we play. I think it's going to be a good test and an equal test."
And for Johnson, his English roots bring some connections with the West Brom side. "Billy Jones [is] a guy who just signed and Jerome Thomas I played national team with,” said Johnson. “Chris Brunt I played against when we were the same year at youth levels. I think Chris Brunt's had a fantastic last few seasons, and Billy Jones has just been signed from Preston so it will be good to see him and have a laugh hopefully after the game when we've won."
Head coach John Spencer agrees that the match is a good proving ground for younger players trying to make a statement.
"It's a good distraction for guys to get involved in a game that's an exhibition game, but not meaningless," Spencer said. “(It’s about) experience, experience for young players. I think it's a good experience for guys to test themselves against international opposition. For us it's just about getting guys minutes that haven't been playing regular (minutes)."
Notable Current Players
Peter Odemwingie (above) is a 30-year-old winger/forward for WBA. His name, Osaze, means "God chooses (for you)". Despite being raised in Russia, Odemwingie chose to pledge his allegiances to the national team of Nigeria and was selected to their squad for the 2008 Summer Olympics and 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Jonas Olsson is a 28-year-old center back who has played in both the EPL and for the Swedish national team. Olsson made his first appearance for West Bromwich in September 2008 against West Ham United and recently signed a four-year contract that is set to keep him with the squad through 2013.
Chris Brunt is a left winger currently serving as the captain for West Bromwich Albion. Brunt has won more than 20 caps for the Northern Ireland national team and scored his first international goal in February 2009 during a 3-0 victory over San Marino.
Youssouf Mulumbu is a 24-year-old who plays in the midfield for West Bromwich. A native Congolese, Youssouf won his first cap for the Congo DR national team in March 2008 after previously playing on France’s under-20 and under-21 teams.
Steven Reid is an English-born Irish footballer who plays for West Bromwich Albion as a defender after spending the majority of his career in the midfield. Reid has capped 23 times at international level for the Republic of Ireland and scored two goals for them from 2001 to 2010. He was part of the Irish squad at the 2002 FIFA World Cup after being called up as a late replacement.