Strong's Notes: Here We Go Again
After last Saturday’s frustrating 5-0 loss in Dallas—and Tuesday’s momentary escape from the pressure of the league season with a friendly against Aston Villa—the Portland Timbers face off against a very familiar opponent, Chivas USA (8 pm PT, ROOT SPORTS, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940; Presented by Flir Systems). The two sides met just 10 days ago in Los Angeles, with the home team holding on from a 16th minute goal for a victory. With both teams suffering losses on the weekend, and still very much on the outside looking in of the playoff race, the desperation for points will be just as strong as it was last Wednesday.
When Last We Met . . .
It’s one of the quirks of this year’s schedule, the amount of times teams are seeing one another in quick succession—the Timbers will play Dallas again next Sunday at home—but it does allow for an easier amount of scouting work to face a team you just battled. Last Wednesday’s game was a tale of two halves for the Timbers, unable to come back from Miller Bolanos’ rebound goal despite 13 shots in the second half.
In that game, Chivas USA was a bit shorthanded, as they look to be again this time around. Star striker Juan Pablo Angel came off the bench after Alejandro Moreno’s first-half head injury; young phenom Juan Agudelo missed his second straight game with swelling in his knee; midfielder destructor Oswaldo Minda was out with a separated shoulder; and recent starters Jorge Villafana and Paulo Cardozo both came off the bench.
The return of Bolanos was the biggest positive storyline that day; out since late May with a hamstring injury, he started on the right wing and scored the day’s only goal.
Since the team’s last meeting, Chivas USA dropped a meeting with their cross-hallway neighbors, the LA Galaxy, 3-1 on Saturday night. The Galaxy were 2-0 up early in the second half before Cardozo—who came over from the Galaxy in an early-season trade—pulled one back on an assist from Ryan Smith, the winger who’s given the Timbers many problems this year with three assists in two games. Though uncredited in the case of last Wednesday's lone goal against Portland, Smith still started the scoring movement on the play.
There were three changes to the Chivas lineup, as coach Robin Fraser dealt with a third game in eight days: 19-year-old Colombian Jose Correa started as the lone forward in their 4-2-3-1 formation; Darlington Nagbe’s Akron teammate Blair Gavin partnered another fellow Zip, Ben Zemanski, in the center of midfield; and Rauwshan McKenzie, who sat on benches in Salt Lake and KC the previous four years, returned to his centerback spot.
It was still Angel, who’s the sixth-highest-scoring active player in MLS history, coming off the bench Chivas was without Agudelo or Minda because of injury. Chivas USA will certainly hope a full week between games can help get those two closer to returning.
Same Weapons As 10 Days Ago
Despite their spot in the standings—seven points out of a playoff spot—the Goats have lost just two of their eight away games this year, and still feature goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, who not only is amongst the league leaders in a number of key categories, but also played the second half in All-Star Game on Wednesday night helping MLS beat Chelsea 3-2. Also, beware Alejandro Moreno: the highest-scoring Venezuelan in MLS history is one of the more experienced and . . . wily . . . forwards in MLS.
The visitors will also take confidence from their early win at JELD-WEN Field this season, and their three wins out of the four league games these teams have played since last year. It’ll be up to the Timbers to use a week of reflection, a promising friendly against Aston Villa, and the Timbers Army baying behind them to find the inner strength to fly back up off the mat and propel themselves back into contention on a week-by-week basis.