MatchDay Preview: Familiar foes both in need of win in Timbers' home finale
A massive game in the chase for places in the MLS Cup Playoffs is ahead at JELD-WEN Field on Friday night when the Portland Timbers play host to the Houston Dynamo. The teams are separated by just three points in the MLS overall table, with the Dynamo holding the final wild card berth ahead of the Timbers, who have a game in hand. The Timbers are coming off a 1-0 win at Vancouver two weeks ago, while the Dynamo haven’t lost in four after a 1-1 home draw with Chicago in their last action.
The Portland Timbers ended a quick two-game winless run, taking a 1-0 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the inaugural MLS game at BC Place on Oct. 2. The Timbers have 40 points from 31 games, in sixth place in the Western Conference.
- The game's lone goal and the first goal at BC Place came in the 25th minute. Diego Chara picked off an errant ball and countered quickly, crossing to a wide-open Kenny Cooper at the edge of the area. He controlled the ball and lashed a skipping shot past Joe Cannon and into the right corner.
- Timbers coach John Spencer made three changes to the team that fell to a 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena. Sal Zizzo, James Marcelin and Jorge Perlaza came back into the side, in place of Eric Alexander and the suspended Jack Jewsbury and Kalif Alhassan.
- PORTLAND TIMBERS (4-1-3-2): Troy Perkins - Lovel Palmer, Mamadou Danso, Eric Brunner, Mike Chabala - Diego Chara - Sal Zizzo, James Marcelin, Darlington Nagbe - Jorge Perlaza (Eric Alexander 66), Kenny Cooper (Bright Dike 85).
The teams come into the game separated by just three points in the wild card race, with the Dynamo holding onto the final spot ahead of 11th place Portland, but the Timbers still with a game in hand.
“I think there’s going to be pressure on this week leading up the Houston game no matter what,” Jewsbury said. “We feel like we definitely have to take care of our home game here and get three points and then go on the road against two tough teams in two tough places to play in D.C. and Salt Lake and get results there to really put pressure on other teams going into the final games.”
The win in Vancouver was the second of the season on the road for the Timbers, moving their away record to 2-9-4. After the Jeld-Wen Field regular season finale against Houston, Portland concludes the campaign with games at D.C. United and at Real Salt Lake.
“I think that was one of our best performances on the road this season. I’ve just tried to keep the guys focused on what we have to do,” Timbers head coach John Spencer said. “If we can go and win two or three of our next couple games, we have a good chance to make the playoffs, if not, we won’t get there. The table doesn’t lie at the end of the year. We deserve to be where we are. We haven’t walked through 30 weeks of the year, we have quality.”
Kenny Cooper has scored three goals in the last four games, now tied for the Timbers team lead with seven league goals on the campaign. Four have come since Aug. 6; he went from April 30 to that date without hitting the back of the net.
“My hope is with each week to get better and with not many games left in the season, I hope I can put in a better performance each time,” Cooper said. “It feels good to get a goal. It’s one of the best moments out there in the game. I’ve been on the right end of some really great service, so I have to credit my teammates.”
Troy Perkins recorded his ninth shutout of the season in Vancouver, a career-high. He had eight in a season twice previously, in back-to-back years with D.C. United (2006-07).
Jorge Perlaza made his first starting appearance since Sept. 10. Perlaza had started every league game this season before missing the Sept. 16 match against New England due to illness; he’d come off the substitutes’ bench in each of the last two games.
After making his first start since coming to the Timbers from FC Dallas in the New York match, Eric Alexander came off the bench vs. Vancouver, his first back-to-back games with Portland.
“The guys have had a good stretch, and it’s tough to break into that lineup this late,” Alexander said. “I’m just glad I’m able to come off the bench and help out where I can and just do what they need me to do.” Said Spencer: “He’s a good soccer player. We’ll probably see the best of Eric next year. He came from a good club that passes the ball well. He’s got lovely technique and good movement, and I expect him to be here for a long time.”
- The Timbers had five players called in for international duty: defenders Futty Danso (Gambia) and Steve Purdy (El Salvador), midfielders Diego Chara (Colombia) and James Marcelin (Haiti) and forward Brian Umony (Uganda).
The Houston Dynamo stretched their undefeated streak to four games in a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire on Oct. 1 at Robertson Stadium. The Dynamo have 43 points from 32 games on the season, now in a tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference to start the week.
- The Dynamo opened the scoring on 33 minutes. A Brad Davis corner kick to the near post deflected off a Chicago defender in a scrum, and the ball fell to Colin Clark, who swept it into the goal from close range.
- But the visitors were level 10 minutes later. Dominic Oduro won a foot race with Houston's Bobby Boswell to a through ball sent behind by Baggio Husidic, and Oduro flicked the ball with the outside of his right foot past goalkeeper Tally Hall inside the far post.
- Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear made two changes to the team that took a 1-0 win over FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park. Colin Clark came back into the midfield for Danny Cruz, and Carlo Costly started up top for Calen Carr.
- HOUSTON DYNAMO (4-1-3-2): Tally Hall - Andre Hainault, Geoff Cameron, Bobby Boswell, Corey Ashe (Jermaine Taylor 46) - Adam Moffat - Colin Clark (Danny Cruz 75), Luiz Camargo, Brad Davis - Brian Ching, Carlo Costly (Calen Carr 60).
The Dynamo saw their four-game winning streak at Robertson Stadium put to an end, though they still have not lost on their home ground in league play since mid-June.
“We put ourselves in some great spots in the final third, and it was one of those days where our crosses were off enough, our shots were off enough, and it led to a bit of a frustrating afternoon,” said Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear.
Said goalkeeper Tally Hall: “It feels like a loss. I don't know how many opportunities we had. It just always felt like it was coming, it was coming, it was coming and to not get it, it doesn't hurt, but it doesn't feel good."
The Dynamo come into their final two games knowing victories - in Portland and at home against the LA Galaxy - will guarantee them a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
“I think our playoffs start (in Portland) in an amazing atmosphere on the road. I think we’re going to see what our team is made of,” said Brad Davis. “Then we have a game with LA where we don’t know what’s going to happen ... but that really doesn’t matter, because we need to get maximum points out of these games to put ourselves in a good spot.”
The Dynamo also head back out on the road after their first away win of the season, at FC Dallas on Sept. 24.
“We are where we are, and we have the chance to get six points and get into the playoffs,” Davis said. “Some of these training sessions over the past few days have been some of the most intense that we’ve had since I’ve been around. I’d rather know it’s in our hands and that we have that chance.”
The Dynamo had three players away on international duty during the fixture break Carlo Costly with Honduras, and Jermaine Taylor and Je-Vaughn Watson with Jamaica (those countries faced each other on Tuesday). Fullback Andre Hainault turned down a call from Canada for World Cup qualifiers against St. Lucia and Puerto Rico.
"We knew it would come down to the last two games. It is always going to be tough when the things are tight,” said Hainault. “We just need to be strong, be ready for it and take care of ourselves. We have a weekend off, so we need to lick our wounds, figure some things out and come ready for Portland."
After scoring his first goal since April 29 in a substitute appearance vs. San Jose on Sept. 17, also missing six games to a knee injury, rookie Will Bruin has not figured in the last two games.
- “He’s looking good in practice, and I think that goal against San Jose gave him a lot of confidence, both in the game and on the practice field,” Kinnear said. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t get him on the field (vs. Chicago), but his attitude was great, and he stepped on the field with the reserves and banged in two goals in the first half.”
REFEREE: Baldomero Toledo. SAR (bench): Frank Anderson; JAR (opposite): Ian Anderson; 4th: Alejandro Mariscal MLS Career: 123 games; FC/gm: 24.8; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 47; pens: 47
Sports Medicine Oregon INJURY REPORT
- PORTLAND TIMBERS-OUT: GK Adin Brown (concussion); DF Kevin Goldthwaite (L knee ACL rupture); FW Eddie Johnson (concussion); FW Spencer Thompson (R knee); PROBABLE: DF David Horst (L groin strain); GK Troy Perkins (R hip soreness); FW Jorge Perlaza (lower back soreness)
- HOUSTON DYNAMO-OUT: FW Cam Weaver (R hip)
- SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: POR: Mike Chabala, Diego Chara, James Marcelin, Rodney Wallace...HOU: Brad Davis, Adam Moffat
- SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: POR: Kalif Alhassan, Jack Jewsbury... HOU: Bobby Boswell, Danny Cruz, Hunter Freeman, Je-Vaughn Watson, Cam Weaver
- ALL-TIME (1 meeting): Timbers 0 wins, 1 goal...Dynamo 1 win, 2 goals... Ties 0
- In the clubs’ first meeting, Adam Moffat and Brian Ching scored first-half goals as the Dynamo took a 2-1 victory, Aug. 14 at Robertson Stadium.
- Coaches record: Dominic Kinnear v POR: P1 W1 L0 T0...John Spencer vs. HOU: P1 W0 L1 T0
LAST MEETING (MLS):
- 8/14: HOU 2, POR 1 (Moffat 17; Ching 27 - Jewsbury 56)
- The Dynamo took the lead after 17 minutes. A Bobby Boswell shot off a corner was blocked and deflected out some 40 yards from goal -- where Adam Moffat hit a thunderous strike that beat Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins into the upper right corner.
- Houston then doubled their lead in the 27th minute, when Brad Davis slipped in Colin Clark, who nutmegged a defender for Brian Ching to finish from close range.
- The Timbers pulled a goal back in the 56th minute when Sal Zizzo found Darlington Nagbe with a cross at the back post, and he headed back for Jack Jewsbury, whose thumping volley took a deflection on its way to the back of the net.
- HOUSTON DYNAMO (4-4-2): Tally Hall - Hunter Freeman, Andre Hainault, Bobby Boswell, Corey Ashe - Colin Clark (Je-Vaughn Watson 69), Adam Moffat, Geoff Cameron, Brad Davis (Jermaine Taylor 80) - Brian Ching, Carlo Costly (Cam Weaver 56).
- PORTLAND TIMBERS (4-1-3-2): Troy Perkins - Mike Chabala, David Horst, Eric Brunner, Rodney Wallace - Diego Chara - Sal Zizzo (Kalif Alhassan 46), Jack Jewsbury, Darlington Nagbe (Brian Umony 60) - Kenny Cooper (Bright Dike 66), Jorge Perlaza.