Scouting the Opposition: A Look at the Portland Timbers with Kelly McLain

Prior to each match, New England Soccer Today will invite a reporter from the other side to provide insight regarding the Revolution’s next opponent.

This week,  Kelly McLain from Timbers Insider shared his thoughts on the state of the Portland Timbers and what the New England Revolution can expect when they face them at Gillette Stadium on Saturday Night.

What is Portland’s current form?

Kelly: After dropping their first two league matches by a combined score of 5-1 to Colorado and Toronto, the Timbers “righted the ship” a bit with a 2-0 win over Chivas USA in Tuesday night’s U.S. Open Cup play-in game. Although the match didn’t count towards league play, it undoubtedly did wonders for both team morale and confidence.

What is their likely starting 11 on Saturday?

The Portland Timbers travel to take on the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA. on Saturday at 7:30PM.

Kelly:
GK – Jake Gleeson
LB – Rodney Wallace
CB – David Horst
CB – Eric Brunner
RB – Steve Purdy
LM – Jeremy Hall
CM – Jack Jewsbury
CM – Peter Lowry
RM – Ryan Pore
F – Jorge Perlaza
F – Kenny Cooper

The only two question marks here are Lowry and Pore. We might see James Marcelin or Kalif Alhassan in those spots. And although a start is probably unlikely, #2 overall SuperDraft selection Darlington Nagbe might make his first appearance on Saturday.

Are there any key injuries affecting the Timbers?

Kelly: You mean other than their first- and second-string goalkeepers (Troy Perkins, Adin Brown), the #2 overall SuperDraft pick (Darlington Nagbe), a former U-20 U.S. National Team standout (Sal Zizzo), and last year’s second leading scorer in Division 2 (Eddie Johnson)? Nope.

What do you feel are Portland’s weaknesses that the Revs may be able to exploit?

Kelly: Obviously giving up 5 goals in the first two games means the defense (as a whole and specifically along the back line) is suspect. However, expect David Horst to get the nod ahead of Kevin Goldthwaite who started the first two matches where he will partner with the steady Eric Brunner in the center of defense. Steve Purdy has generally locked down the right side pretty well, but Wallace has had problems on the left. He has improved in each game however, and seems to be settling in and getting comfortable. Although things have improved defensively each match, there are still plenty of individual errors that opportunistic squads should be able to capitalize on.

Offensively, the Timbers don’t mess around much. They are still playing a lot of “route one” football and trying to find Perlaza and Cooper with long balls over the top. If opponents can apply even a little pressure to the defenders and midfielders, Portland will stick primarily to kick-and-chase.

What seem to be Portland’s strengths this season?

Kelly: Well, honestly, not much of anything just yet. But it’s early and they are still trying to develop their style of play and get their team chemistry going. Portland is a young team with a lot of energy and heart, though. They do manage to put together some nice sequences after gaining possession off turnovers, even though they have lacked quality in front of goal. But it would be fair to say that counter attacks have provided them with much better opportunities than when they have tried to build an attack themselves.

What Portland players should fans keep an eye on Saturday?

Kelly: Kenny Cooper will be very noticeable, of course. You certainly don’t want to give him any free looks, but he has understandably gotten the most attention from opponents. So watch for his strike partner, Jorge Perlaza. The two have begun to develop a nice partnership and although Perlaza has seemed a bit timid and unsure at times, he’s always in the right spot at the right time. There’s a sense that it’s only a matter of time before we start to see his name continuously popping up on the score sheet.

As I mentioned before, we could see the debut of Darlington Nagbe who has been recovering from a sports hernia surgery a couple weeks ago. He started back to full training on Monday and was in the 18 for Tuesday’s match although he didn’t see the field.

Also, keep an eye out for Purdy and Wallace getting forward from their deep positions. If the Timbers are able to establish any offensive rhythm, those two will be flying up the wings and joining the attack all night long.

Kelly McLain’s coverage of the Portland Timbers can be seen at http://www.timbersinsider.com. Follow Kelly on twitter @TimbersInsider.

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About Sean Donahue

Sean Donahue has been covering the New England Revolution since 2002 for various publications. He has covered four MLS Cups, in addition to covering various international matches, including World Cup Qualifying and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He has done freelance work for the AP and ESPN Boston. Sean hosted Revolution Recap, a weekly radio program covering the New England Revolution and U.S. Men's National Team from 2005-2008. He is a member of the North American Soccer Reporters. Sean can be reached at nesoccertoday@gmail.com or followed on twitter @SeanLDonahue