Ready to take on FC Dallas for the second time this season, the Portland Timbers are back at JELD-WEN Field on Saturday (2pm PT, ESPN, 750 The Game / La Pantera 940). Find out everything you need to know about the opposition.
What can the Timbers expect?
As they experienced in their last meeting, the Timbers know that Dallas is a team who can mix up their style depending on how a game is going. They can be very direct, moving the ball forward as quickly as possible – often out wide, where the wingers can then gets crosses into the opposition’s penalty area for their big strikers to attack it.
There is speed in their team with the likes of Fabian Castillo and Jackson, while the outside backs – Zach Loyd and Jair Benitez – burst forward on overlapping runs quite regularly. But, at its core, Dallas is a tough team. They have big center backs in George John and Matt Hedges, as well as two midfield enforcers in Michel and Andrew Jacobsen, who is enjoying his best season yet in MLS.
Where are they most vulnerable?
Dallas’ backline looked far from secure when the Seattle Sounders hit four goals past them recently, but they did have some players missing for that game and rookie defender London Woodberry had a difficult night trying to deal with Eddie Johnson. Those issues should be addressed with John returning to the heart of their defence, but the Timbers can still expose them.
Should Dallas commit too many players forward for counterattacks, the Timbers will be able to break into space and wreak havoc. That is why Jacobsen is such a key player for them, because he sits in front of the back four to break up play and offer protection. Isolating him as well as looking to get in behind their outside backs could also lead to goalscoring opportunities.
Who are their main threats?
Some shrewd moves in the offseason saw Dallas strengthen their attacking options with Kenny Cooper and Eric Hassli providing Blas Perez for competition up front. Behind them, playmaker David Ferreira has shaken off some niggling injuries to return, while Jackson, Castillo and Ramon Nunez can all pop up with big contributions to their offense.
Using set-pieces to their advantage is a big thing for Dallas. Brazilian Michel is the man who floats the crosses in, almost always looking for either John or Hedges to make contact. But they are constantly drilling balls into the opposition’s penalty area, which keeps their strikers busy and attempts to put the other team on the back foot. Stopping them before they play those long balls is quite important.
Head coach: Schellas Hyndman
Appointed in 2008 following a hugely successful career coaching college soccer, Hyndman guided Dallas to their only MLS Cup final appearance to date. He has brought an exciting brand of soccer, worked behind the scenes to improve the level of coaching and scouting, while also helping individual players to reach the next level in their careers.
Star Player: David Ferreira
The 2010 MLS Most Valuable Player, Ferreira continues to be a key cog in the FCD attack. Quicksilver fast, the native of Colombia has already posted one goal and four assists in the 2013 campaign. He is a creative center to a talented group of midfielders and has been a definitive foundation to Dallas' rise this season.
One To Watch: Michel
After spells in Belgium, Greece and his homeland, this versatile Brazilian landed in Dallas back in February. Originally expected to slot in at left back, he has since transformed into a key midfielder with his delivery from set pieces proving to be one of Dallas’ main weapons. Michel, whose full name is Michel Garbini Pereira, has registered three assists so far this season and even scored directly from a corner kick against Seattle Sounders.
What happened when the teams last met?
Dallas fought back to earn a point in a 1-1 tie, but the Timbers extended their unbeaten streak to eight games and had plenty to be upbeat about. Darlington Nagbe opened the scoring on 70 minutes with a sweetly-struck volley before former Timber Kenny Cooper hit back with a penalty to spoil what was a solid night for goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
What did the Timbers learn from that game?
Quite simply, the Timbers came up against a team who has showed the potential to reach the playoffs and possibly even make it a memorable year by winning a trophy. By playing against teams, who are well organized and difficult to break down, the Timbers will have learnt a lot about themselves, about what they need to improve on, and about the things that they are doing right.
In the game, the Timbers dominated most areas with 350 passes made – resulting in a 74 per cent accuracy – more duels won (59 compared to Dallas’ 55) and controlling the bulk of possession. Yet, Dallas still hung in there and had 15 attempts on goal and had 18 crosses from open play, which showed Porter’s men that a team can be dangerous even when they haven’t been on top for the majority of the game.
What did the coaches have to say?
Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter
“I thought we deserved to get three points out of that game. It wasn’t a pretty game. They’re the best attacking team in the league – we’re a close second. In the end, a point on the road against the best team in the league is nothing to hang our heads about.”
FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman
“It was a really wide open game. I think both teams were not at their best and both teams were missing some players. We created some pretty good chances, as they did, but for us to be 1-0 and to dig in and come back and walk away with a point, we’re very happy with that.”
How has Dallas fared since then?
It has been a good season so far and since drawing with the Timbers last month, they have won four games and lost once. Two of those victories came in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Houston Dynamo), while they tripped up away to Seattle Sounders in a 4-2 loss, which came between league wins over DC United and San Jose Earthquakes.
In terms of their overall standing, Dallas sits top of the Western Conference with a record of 8-2-4 and 28 points collected from those 14 league games. They are currently averaging 2 points per game compared to the Timbers’ 1.64 points per game, who have actually scored one more goal and allowed one less than their opponents this weekend.
Previous Meetings in MLS
2011: April 17 – Portland Timbers 3-2 FC Dallas
2011: June 25 – FC Dallas 4-0 Portland Timbers
2012: March 17 – FC Dallas 1-1 Portland Timbers
2012: July 21 – FC Dallas 5-0 Portland Timbers
2012: August 5 – Portland Timbers 1-1 FC Dallas
2013: May 8 – FC Dallas 1-1 Portland Timbers
Record vs FC Dallas: 1-2-3
Did You Know?
Dallas defender Stephen Keel played over 50 games for the Portland Timbers during their USL days before he moved on to the New York Red Bulls and then to his current club.
Gareth Maher is a contributing writer to PortlandTimbers.com. He is a frequent writer about soccer for the Irish Daily Mail in Dublin as well as ESPNFC.com.