Tournament Preview: Showcase match pits Timbers versus Sweden's AIK

11-time Swedish champions haven't allowed a goal in tournament

Preseason Tournament Huddle

Photo Credit: 
Craig Mitchelldyer

The Portland Timbers close the book on the 2012 preseason with a showcase matchup tonight against Sweden’s AIK set for a 5 p.m. kickoff at JELD-WEN Field.


AIK vs PORTLAND TIMBERS
JELD-WEN FIELD, Portland, Ore.
Sunday, March 4, 2012
5 p.m. (PT)

TICKETS: Tickets for the preseason tournament are available, which start at $10 per doubleheader session, at the JELD-WEN Field box office and area Ticketmaster outlets, online or by phone at (800) 745-3000.
BROADCASTS: 750 AM The Game (pre-game show starts at 4:30 p.m.) / Web stream
PDF: Match Day Insert


The Timbers, still unbeaten during the preseason with a 3-0-3 record, are coming off of back-to-back 1-1 draws against MLS foes San Jose and Chivas USA earlier last week. 

During the Timbers preseason tournament, midfielder Kalif Alhassan picked up a goal against San Jose and the game-tying assist on Thursday night with a corner kick to rookie defender Ryan Kawulok’s left boot in the 78th minute.

Several players have seen playing time in the first two matches as head coach John Spencer has tried to increase fitness levels across the board. The coach added that he expects to have new striker Kris Boyd in the lineup for at least a portion of tonight’s match.

The Timbers also welcomed back defenders Steve Purdy, Futty Danso and Rodney Wallace from their mid-week international matches. Purdy received eight stitches under his right eye after taking an elbow late in El Salvador’s loss to Estonia. He trained on Saturday, but said there is some residual pain, especially when heading the ball.

In AIK, the Timbers face the Swedish Allsvenskan runners-up from the 2011 season. 

The Stockholm club, 11-time champions of Sweden, have fared well while in Portland. The Scandinavians controlled much of their first match, cruising to a 2-0 win over Chivas USA, but looked less organized in a 0-0 draw with San Jose despite the ‘Quakes playing with 10 men for the final 30 minutes.

AIK made several changes to their starting lineup for the second match, which could explain the let off, as the side is looking to fill the scoring gap left by the departure of their top two goal-scorers from 2011 — Teteh Bangura and Mohamed Bangura, no relation.

Particularly impressive for AIK during the preseason tournament have been 24-year-old midfielder Robert Åhman Persson (five goals in 2011), defender Nils-Eric Johannson (who played with American goalkeeper Brad Friedel at Blackburn in the Premier League for four seasons) and the combination of Togolese midfielder Atakora Lalawelé and 20-year-old forward Viktor Lundberg (each scored and assisted against Chivas USA).

AIK, which won the Allsvenskan most recently in 2009 and is consistently the top draw in the league as far as attendance, will provide a stiff test for the Timbers with some pace in the final third and strong, physical play in midfield and defense. 

Goalkeeper Ivan Turina has yet to be beaten during the preseason tournament.

As far as AIK connections to MLS go, San Jose midfielder Khari Stephenson wore an AIK shirt in 2007 and current New York Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe managed AIK from January 1994-June 1995 with a record of 18-17-18 in 52 matches at the helm.