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What to Watch For (Timbers vs Earthquakes) Wednesday evening 7:30

The first of two road matches for PTFC starts tomorrow night against an extremely strong and high scoring San Jose. The Earthquakes are on a 12 game win streak at home, and given the routine road woes for PTFC and San Jose’s focus on the Supporters Shield I’m not sure this game will be a fun one to watch.

Nevertheless; PTFC are going to go in there knowing they only have four away games to get that first road win monkey off their backs. Is this a good time for an upset; especially with San Jose ‘maybe – just maybe’ looking ahead to their next game against Seattle? Not sure… but perhaps it adds a bit of spice to what could be a rather one-sided game.

However it works out here’s what we know going in; Ricketts is out and Bendik will start; the pool player picked up by PTFC for this game is Scott Angevine. He joined the Timbers this afternoon and will travel with the team and be available to play against the San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake.

I have not seen any official communications from PTFC (yet) about Diego Chara but I did see some traffic that Diego may be out a couple of weeks. If that is the case my guess is that Eric Alexander gets a start in central midfield. The most recent game guide posted by MLS seems to indicate this as well: http://www.keepandshare.com/doc/4632717/919sjpor-pdf-1-0-meg?da=y
Note that the injury report in the game guide does not include anything about Ricketts or Chara?

Oddly enough it also indicates that Rodney Wallace will start at left back; if Steve Smith is not injured (no indication of that in the game guide either) and this start happens, this may indicate a move by GW to get more younger players a look-in as the season winds down.

With that said I am hopeful we also see Kalif Alhassan and Danny Mwanga on the pitch (earlier than the 75 minute mark). I would like to see how Danny works in as the midfield continues to get stronger with its passing, control and movement. I offer that Bright has strengths but IMHO the more lithe and athletic ability of Danny Mwanga may better suit.

So my first WTWF will be who and when we see substitutes and how do they link in with the starters and the continued move to get better in the midfield.

My second WTWF gets back to the back – most may disagree but I remain convinced that the most consistent contributor in the back-four these last few months has been David Horst – with San Jose having a great attacking squad PTFC can’t just have one defender on ‘his game’. All four need to be sharp, tight and flat. Part of that also includes how well the midfielders get back to support the back-four when they get pulled wide.

Work rate and impact on the game is my final WTWF and that will focus on Bright Dike or whoever the starting center-forward may be in lieu of Bright. Both Bernandez and Opara are pretty tall guys but they seem a bit on the light side of weight compared to Dike – maybe the bull-in-the-china-shop approach works better from Bright tomorrow night?

One additional observation although this is an away match. Like the previous game against Seattle under John Spencer PTFC beat San Jose 2-1 with Spencer running two center forwards, Obviously with this being an away game the formation may be different but there is value in not running the same formation game in and game out; it does get the lads more playing time together if the squad remains the same. But ‘sameness’ also makes a team easier to defend and with San Jose running such a high powered offense maybe we see PTFC start out in a 4-3-2-1 or a 4-4-2 as opposed to the most recent run of 4-3-3’s?

However things go I will be glued to my chair starting at 7:00 PM tomorrow night!

Chris Gluck

Chris Gluck

I have been covering the Portland Timbers and Major League Soccer, as a community blogger/analyst for the Columbian Newspaper, since June, 2012. Since then my involvement in soccer analysis has expanded to include participating in the Regional Emmy Award Winning Soccer City PDX TV Show (Comcast Sports Northwest). My unique analytical approach has been published in Europe and presented at the World Conference on Science and Soccer 2014. I also appear regularly as a co-host on Rose City Soccer Show and the Yellowcarded Podcast. You can find my work on PossessionwithPurpose.com, PTFC Collective and Prost Amerika.