PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Timbers interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson won't shed any tears over the fact that Chivas USA will be without midfielder Ryan Smith when the Goats arrive at JELD-WEN Field on Saturday night (8 pm PT, ROOT SPORTS, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940; Presented by Flir Systems).
Smith has wreaked havoc on the Timbers this season, with three assists in two games, both Chivas wins.
But the speedy winger left his last game, against the LA Galaxy last Saturday, in the 57th minute with a hamstring injury and is listed out for the third and final meeting between Portland and Chivas.
“So that’s hopefully a good thing,” Wilkinson said with a smile. “He has caused us problems, he really has.”
In the teams’ first meeting, a 2-1 Chivas win on April 7 at JELD-WEN, Smith started the second half with a feed to Alejandro Moreno for a 48th-minute goal. He provided the game-winning assist to Nick LaBrocca.
And in their last meeting, less than two weeks ago, Smith moved around Portland defenders seemingly with ease. He assisted on Miller Bolaños goal in the 16th minute for a 1-0 victory.
“I think you go back to the first game and two great deliveries into the box and maybe we weren’t tight enough and didn’t do our job, but he punished us twice,” Wilkinson said. “If you remember that first goal, it took the whole air out of the team, didn’t it? It really did change the mentality and the whole approach to the second half. And in [LA], he punished us as well.”
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But just because Smith won’t be on hand to help his team with a three-game sweep of the Timbers, Wilkinson doesn’t expect their task to be any easier. Dangerous forward Juan Agudelo is expected to return from a knee injury that has kept him out all month. And that’s not to mention the entire Chivas attack that dominated the first half in their last meeting and the second half the first time around.
“They do have a lot of dangerous players, Agudelo is back in, you’ve got Juan Pablo Ángel,” Wilkinson said. “They do have good players; they do have dangerous pieces. We have to get back to saying this is our stadium, and this is a place were we have to be constantly getting three points.”
Midfielder Jack Jewsbury said the fact that their last game against Chivas is still fresh in the players’ memories might help. He said the scouting report from the previous match told a tale of two halves. They need to match their form from the second half by taking advantage of their home-field advantage to put the pressure on Chivas, he said.
“Nothing changes in our mind,” Jewsbury said. “We feel like we have to win this game at home.”
Wilkinson said the main motivation during Saturday’s game will be to not get swept by a team that not much was expected of.
“We can’t let them beat us three times,” he said. “It’s a matter of pride, and here’s a game that you would go to in the start of the year and say how many points will you be getting off Chivas and right now we would have all got it wrong, wouldn’t we? So I think we need to address that.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.