Friday, June 23, 2017

Week 17 Prediction Thread - Another Timbers - Sounders Encounter

I cannot wait to see what tifo appears on Sunday
The last time the Portland Timbers played at Providence Park, happy thoughts filled the air after the club posted one of it's most dramatic victories of the 2017 season over FC Dallas by a 2 to 0 score. The result was fairly impressive considering the opponent - FC Dallas has been one of the better sides in MLS for many seasons - but also due to the Timbers having to empty the bench due to injuries to 2 centerbacks and being without Darlington Nagbe and David Guzman for international duty. Portland then faced one of their more daunting stretches of play following the result: an Open Cup date with the Seattle Sounders in WA on June 13, followed by MLS matches in Colorado on June 17 and Minnesota on June 21. Timbers Coach Caleb Porter faced some difficult decisions in terms of filling his game day roster, so the team made the decision to play mostly T2 players and a few other regulars in the USOC match to allow the first team to be readily available for the Rapids and MNUFC match.

The USOC match certainly didn't turn out like many had hoped as the young Timbers fell behind early, and they eventually succumbed to the craptacular surface, an unfortunate handball in the box and the massive amount of bright green and bule to lose 2 to 1, but there was certainly promise in the performance. With the USOC an afterthought, the Timbers and T2 could return to their regular schedules in an attempt to qualify for their respective postseasons. However, the plan hasn't worked out as expected as the Timbers absorbed losses to 2 of the teams below them in the Western Conference standings, as they lost 2 to 1 to the Rapids and 3 to 2 to MNUFC.

Who starts for Portland in goal?
Portland controlled the tempo early in the match in Colorado as they took the lead with a Sebastian Blanco strike in the 18th minute. They nearly extended the lead when Fanendo Adi had a chip shot in front of goal in the 49th minute that the Timbers striker pushed high. Colorado leveled the score 2 minutes later, and took the 3 points when former USL Timber Alan Gordon put a header past Jake Gleeson for the lead, but it was Gleeson's unfortunate decision to leave his line that contributed to the first goal for the Rapids. Porter changed things up for Minnesota, giving Jeff Attinella the start in goal and rotating in several other players in an attempt to keep folks fresh for the rematch with the Sounders at home on June 25. Things didn't start off well as the Timbers conceded an own goal early, but they were able to draw level when Diego Valeri drew a penalty against MNUFC goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth for contact in the box.

Valeri easily converted and it appeared the Timbers might find their feet, but after the halftime break, they found themselves in a deficit when Christian Ramirez got free and put the home side up. Minnesota aided the Timbers by conceding an own goal for the visitors, but the home team took the lead when Attinella left his line to punch away a ball and it didn't fall nearly far enough away for MNUFC Abu Danladi to slot it into an open goal for a 3 to 2 lead. Danladi didn't last much longer in the match, as he and Blanco collided at midpitch and both were ejected for violent conduct relating to unsportsmanlike kicks. With Roy Miller earning a soft caution late in the MNUFC match, Porter would now have to account for a different lineup versus the Sounders with no Blanco or Miller available.

The circumstances have been frustrating, especially since for as good as the Timbers were at home versus San Jose and FC Dallas, they slept walked through major portions of the matches with Colorado and Minnesota. Porter called out the team's effort after the Rapids loss, saying he needed players that could finish results, but the effort against Minnesota was uneven at best as the Timbers' offense never seemed to find any rhythm for most of the match. The defense spent most of the night on the back heels, especially with Porter giving Alvas Powell and Marco Farfan starts to give Vytas and Zarek Valentin a break. Portland now faces a key home match with Liam Ridgewell still injured, Miller unavailable due to an accumulation suspension, and newly signed Larrys Mabiala not eligible to play until the summer transfer window opens on July 10. Blanco has been much improved lately, but now the Timbers have to bring out Dairon Asprilla or Darren Mattocks to replace him alongside Adi, Valeri and Nagbe. For as good as this team can be at times, they've been frustratingly awful on many other occasions.

How does our crack crew of prognosticators feel about this weekend's tussle that had to be delayed from the original kickoff time due to extreme heat in the Portland area? Well, let's find out, shall we?


Jennifer - Timbers 2, Sounders 10

It will be so hot, I'm going to be face down in the South Deck by the end of the first half. Unfortunately, I then won't be able to witness the absolute slaughter the Timbers will barely survive. I should be able to still overhear the cacophony of cries and boos from the crowd, though. The bad streak is only going to get, well, badder.

There is no doubt which city GB suppors.

GB - Timbers 1, Sounders 0

The gray boy was sitting in Kip's lap during the interview and he grabbed onto his arm very tightly when he was asked whether the Timbers would win. When asked about the Sounders, he ducked his head away. He followed a similar pattern with the number of goals, grabbing tightly about 1 goal but looking away when asked about any more. While he's predicting a nail biting affair, he is siding with the home side for this week.

Rick - Timbers 2, Sounders 2

Who you looking at?
The only positive I can take from the three games since our comprehensive home victory over FC Dallas is that the Timbers will have an 2 1/2 more hours recovery than the Sounders.That said, the time was more than cancelled out by the flight back from Minneapolis. Hopefully it will balanced out by the Sounders getting stuck in traffic as they head down I5 on Sunday.
The unnecessary losses, for disciplinary reasons, of Sebastiàn Blanco, just as he seemed to have hit a good run of form, and of Roy Miller, who had stood out a solid performer in a misfiring defense, could not have come at a worse time. In spite of all their absences through injury and suspension, the Timbers still have game changers in Chara, Guzman, Nagbe, Valeri, and Adi who could put this sorry fortnight behind us.

Spot - Timbers 2, Sounders 2

This bag is mine! Just like that other bag!

Spot followed her same tactic as last time by rubbing her head and drool on Kip to make her predictions for the match. She didn't make any move to pick a winner when asked about the two teams, but did share her thoughts when asked about a draw. Unlike previous weeks, she did react and put two more drool rubs on Kip's hand when asked about goals. With several weeks left in the season, the editors will need to invest heavily in hand sanitizer at this rate.

Kip - Timbers 2, Sounders 1

This won't be needed for Sunday for sure.

I wished that I felt better about the Timbers going into this match, but I just can't. While Colorado and Minnesota are good teams at home, Portland showed some big problems in both matches that they couldn't overcome - a lack of killer instinct in game 1, and total disorganization in game 2.

The last time the Timbers met the Sounders (I can't count the USOC match since it was really T2 v S2), Portland played well but conceded an early goal and never recovered. With better efforts at home and some frustration brewing, I'm expecting the Timbers to gut out the win behind goals from Nagbe & Adi.

Lucy - Timbers 3, Sounders 3

I'll get a better picture for next time, right?

Our newest member to the cat collective was really excited about being asked to be included for another week, and the exclamations were very over the top. She excited meowed 3 times for the Timbers in terms of goals, which was a very good sign, but the good vibes took a big turn when the number of meows for the visitors matched the same total. Well, at least she predicted that we will see goals for this week.

Tortie - Timbers 15, Sounders 9

It's like a video game, right?

Maybe it was too close to feeding time, maybe it was the fact she got brushed before our talk, or maybe it was the fact that Canadian Football League action was on television for her interview, but the chatty ninja cat kept making all sorts of noises for goals. We think we got all of the eeps for the scores, but Tortie just kept getting chattier and chattier about goals, so that's where the numbers came from. We fear she might be turning into a sports cat at this rate.

Other predictors are on assignment, so this is all we have for this week. In a note from the editors, the predictions will be taking a short break next week as the editors take some time away from Portland and the cats get a break for a short time. We'll be back for Real Salt Lake on July 19th for our panel of soccer experts and felines to provide their thoughts!!!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Week 16 Prediction Thread - Timbers v. Rapids Round 1

The MLS scheduling gods aren't doing the Portland Timbers any favors to end the month of June. But with planned gaps in the schedule and a desire to play nearly 2 months of playoff soccer later in the year, this ends up compressing fixtures for nearly every team at some point. Add in the fun of the U.S. Open Cup to the turmoil and you can safely see why Timbers Coach Caleb Porter took the full rotational approach to the midweek USOC opener against Floundering Fish FC. With playing Colorado on June 17 followed up by dates in Minnesota on June 21, hosting Seattle on June 25, traveling to Sporting KC for a July 1 match to then host Chicago on July 5, that is a ton of travel especially with an international window of matches falling just before that. The majority of players used in the USOC match were from Timbers 2 except for Ben Zemanski, and while they did reasonably well for long stretches, they ultimately couldn't overcome a second half penalty and lost 2 to 1 to be eliminated from the tournament.

Do I wish the Timbers could have fielded a stronger team? Absolutely because I love the concept of winning the Open Cup to be crowned the best professional or high amateur side in US soccer for that calendar year. It's a prestigious honor, but it gets wedged among the other dates and so teams have to manage their rosters accordingly. As much as the playoffs are exciting, I'd rather see MLS eliminate the postseason completely and re-distribute the dates to allow free weekends for USOC matches to give the tournament the attention it deserves. But I'm not the commissioner and the league loves playoff drama, so we are stuck with this reality for now. So the Timbers now turn their attention to league play to battle the Colorado Rapids, one of the more curious teams in MLS for 2017. After being near the top of the table in 2016 due to an impressive defense and opportunistic offense, the Rapids have sunk to the bottom of the Western Conference with 13 points in 13 matches played. While their home record is respectable at 4 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses, they haven't secured a point in 6 road matches.

Scoring 12 goals in 13 matches isn't helping things either as Dominique Badji and Kevin Doyle have 3 goals each in 2017. While their goals conceded mark of 18 isn't bad either in comparison to other marks, it's not good if your team isn't scoring enough to overcome that. The players are there, as the Rapids boast Sam Cronin and Dillon Powers, two of the better central midfielders out there, while Marlon Hairston and Mohammed Saeid are solid wingers. Their defense in front of keepers Tim Howard and Zac MacMath has been good, too, but there has been some bad luck and inept offense abound for this group. Rapids Coach Pablo Mastroeni might refer to the struggles as showing great heart and desire, but the Rapids have simply been too inconsistent to be a threat so far this year. However, they do possess an advantage in their home pitch being at altitude, and the Timbers have just 1 win and 2 draws in 9 matches at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado. While Darlington Nagbe will be back for the Timbers, David Guzman isn't available due to suspension for accumulation, and the status of center backs Roy Miller and Liam Ridgewell is uncertain after both left the 2 to 0 win over FC Dallas for injury. Miller was in midweek training, but his status is likely a game time decision, so Porter may have to employ Lawrence Olum and Amobi Okugo as his two center backs.

We've had a new addition to the crew this week as our cat Lucy has decided she wants to participate in the fun, while the rest of the predictions crew is again back for another go. What do they think about this weekend's match? Let's find out, shall we?

Rick's animal collective

Rick - Timbers 1, Rapids 1

All 13 of Colorado's points this season's have come from home games. The Timbers haven't tended to fare very well at altitude with a W1 D2 L 5 F6 A17 record in Commerce City. Injuries continue to dog the Timbers and David Guzman's suspension for yellow card accumulation won't help matters. I'll go with Adi continuing his scoring streak. 



Mark - Timbers 2, Rapids 2

Happy Timbers people, but this picture lacks cats.

Last summer my wife and I traveled to Colorado and watched a less than scintillating 0-0 draw. One thing I can say about Dick’s Sporting Goods Park is they have ample free parking and Dip-N-Dots. The odds for this game break out like this. Rapids 42% chance of a win, PTFC 30% Draw 28% . The people at 538 assume there is rhyme or reason in the MLS. Rapids are coming off consecutive wins at home and the Timbers did likewise. Of course this game is going to be played at 5280 feet of elevation. Advantage to the Rapids. The Rapids are also tough at home. It must be the altitude as their fans kind of hang out and take in the game.  I do not see the Mighty Mighty Timbers walking away with three points here. Despite Timbers depleted back line I do not see this a high scoring game. Still I will ignore my gut instincts and go with the draw. I think Adi holds up well and he scores and assists on a goal. Blanco will be the recipient of the assist. I have no idea who scores, however I think Alan Gordon will be in the mix. I feel the Timbers, arguably are the better side, however this has the look and feel of an odd game. So expect a thunderstorm, plenty of yellow cards and a controversial penalty kick that will give the faithful something to argue about for the next week.

Lucy - Timbers 2, Rapids 1

I finally get to participate in this. Do I get extra kibble now?

The newest member of the cat collective to provide her thoughts started out as a very shy cat, but suffice to say, she's come out of her shell quite a bit. The interview was very enthusiastic as she was excited to be included, especially since she spent most of the FC Dallas match lying on the couch and watching to see what all the fuss is about. She emphatically indicated a Timbers win, but admitted that both sides will get to score goals on this night.

GB - Timbers 2, Rapids 0

Soccer isn't boring. It's a great sleep aid for me!

The gray boy had spent most of the morning sleeping and snoring in the background of various conference calls while Kip was working from home. It's actually a very wonderful noise, but honestly, it indicates that the pollen and allergens in the air suck so far this year. When he woke up, he indicated 2 head butts for Portland and went back to sleep when asked about Colorado. Considering their boring offense, maybe he is onto something here?

Spot - Timbers 2, Rapids 0

I'm in charge around here in case anybody asked.

The scoreless draw queen made it two weeks in a row for her to provide a score, and she did it in her same Spot-like style. One of her most endearing or gross habits is to rub her nose on an arm or hand, and since it's covered in drool or snot, it's terribly gross. When asked about the match, Spot rubbed 2 times for Portland and turned her head when asked about Colorado. Kip is now busy trying to find the hand sanitizer gel after this interview.

Tortie - Timbers 6, Rapids 4

Goals are good, but food is better.

The tortoise shelled one has been rather conservative in her thoughts over the past few weeks, but Team Tortie has returned to her track meet predictions for this week. Whether this is due to the altitude or the current winning streak isn't completely clear, but Tortie eeped more times for the guys in green than for the Rapids - and both sides got eeeps, so she is thinking there will be goals a plenty.

Kip - Timbers 1, Rapids 0

I could deal with some sun around here for a while.

I have to admit, I'm rather conflicted by this match up. Both teams come into this on 2 match winning streaks as the defenses have been very good, but Portland's defense has several injuries right now. As offensively challenged as the Rapids are, they are still a good home team and you can't look past this bunch in their home park. For me, I'm calling for Diego Valeri to break the tie between 8 goal scorers of himself and Fanendo Adi, and that's enough for the Timbers to add to their winning streak. I'm also expecting Caleb to play a very conservative approach, especially with 2 matches in the upcoming week - a match with an improved Minnesota side on June 21 and the ever flopping ones at Providence Park on June 25.

As far as Jennifer's prediction for the week, she has spent the past few days in the throws of Severe Allergy Land. She might have passed onto the other universal plane in an attempt to get away from all the allergens for all we know. Due to the compressed schedule, predictions will return for the Cascadia Cup match next Sunday against the unmentionables.