Back in action on Saturday evening, the Portland Timbers take on the Colorado Rapids in their fourth game of the 2013 MLS season (3pm PT, ROOT Sports, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940). Find out everything you need to know about the opposition in Rockey Mountain country.
A brief history…
One of the 10 original MLS franchises, the Rapids lifting their first MLS Cup in 2010. With a long MLS history, they finished as MLS Cup runners-up in 1997 and as US Open Cup runners-up in 1999.
Now playing at the soccer-specific Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the club is owned by wealthy business entrepreneur Stan Kroenke, who is also a key man behind the scenes at Arsenal in the English Premier League.
How did they fare last season?
It certainly wasn’t a year to remember for Rapids supporters as they missed out on making the playoffs by finishing in seventh place in the Western Conference. After winning their opening two games, things started to go wrong with inconsistency haunting them the rest of the way.
With 11 wins overall, the Rapids finished three points ahead of the Timbers in a season that saw them average a home crowd of 15,175 spectators. Injuries to strikers Omar Cummings and Conor Casey left them short of firepower for long periods, while other players failed to deliver when it mattered most.
Who have they brought in this year?
Investing in youth has been the adopted policy for 2013 with the likes of Dillon Powers, Deshorn Brown and Kevin Harbottle all been brought onboard to add to promising Homegrown players such as Shane O’Neill, Davy Armstrong and Dillon Serna.
There are still some experienced players in the locker room, especially including Nick LaBrocca and Edson Buddle coming in as well as a preseason trade for Danny Mwanga from the Timbers. The challenge now is trying to find the right balance.
How have they started their season?
Quite poorly actually as the Rapids have yet to taste victory in any of their four MLS outings – losing to FC Dallas, Philadelphia Union and LA Galaxy, while also sharing the spoils in a 1-1 draw with rivals Real Salt Lake in their first Rocky Mountain Cup match of the season.
The supporters are continuing to be patient with Pareja though, because he is overhauling the squad, introducing a new style of play, and trying to bring the team forward. There have been some bright sparks, notably in the displays of younger players--particularly from SuperDraft first round pick Brown--but the Rapids know that there is a lot of work to be done.
Head coach: Oscar Pareja
Now into his second year, this Colombian tactician is beginning to make his mark after making big changes with the Rapids. He knows MLS from his time playing with New England Revolution and FC Dallas, while he also served as an assistant coach for five years with the latter. Only 44, he is a young coach with fresh ideas.
Star Player: Hendry Thomas
The Honduran international has played in the 2010 World Cup as well as 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Having come over from English Premier League side Wigan Athletic in 2012, the midfielder has been a central cog in the middle of the pitch.
One To Watch: Deshorn Brown
A newcomer to MLS, this Jamaican youngster has adapted quickly and started to repay the faith shown in him by the Rapids, who chose him as the sixth overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. Quick and athletic, Brown is a real threat and has an eye for goal as Real Salt Lake found out when he pickpocketed an RSL defender and scored a first half goal two weeks ago.
What can the Timbers expect?
An opposition that stick to a 4-3-3 formation and try to play a free-flowing passing game. It doesn’t always work as they have a roster largely made up of new faces and rookies and have also been decimated by injuries, but once they hit some momentum the real Rapids will be revealed – and they could be exciting to watch.
Missing a natural playmaker due to Martin Rivero being out injured, the Rapids will rely heavily on their speed. So the Timbers should be wary of marking their men out wide, which is where the likes of Mwanga, Deshorn Brown, Atiba Harris and even Buddle like to roam.
Where are they most vulnerable?
The goalkeeper situation is one that is currently troubling Pareja as first-choice stopper Matt Pickens is out injured and rookie Clinton Irwin has been thrown in at the deep end. If tested early on, he could prove to be someone who the Timbers can target.
There are also issues in defence, where Drew Moor will be missing through suspension after being sent off in the defeat to LA Galaxy. Veteran Brian Mullan has been playing at outside back, but he may be considered a player that the Timbers can expose through either Darlington Nagbe or Kalif Alhassan.
Who are their main threats?
Up front, speed is king for the Rapids and Brown has already shown plenty of quality. A lot hinges on which players Pareja turns to as Tony Cascio can make a real difference with his link play, while Buddle, if fit, is a proven goalscorer in MLS and can be a game-winner.
In defensive midfield, Hendry Thomas is fearsome duo with hard tackling and will try to break up Timbers attacks to immediately get their team moving on the counter. Marvell Wynne is also a big weapon for them when he roams forward from full back as he can be lightening quick.
Did You Know?
The Timbers opened their 2013 preseason campaign in the Tucson Desert Friendlies with a 3-1 win over the Rapids. The match was highlighted by Diego Valeri's beautiful curling free kick goal.