Chivas USA return from their first bye of 2014 to face the Portland Timbers on Wednesday. To get us ready for the game from Portland's perspective, we welcome back Michael Orr of SB Nation Timbers blog Stumptown Footy. Many thanks to Michael for taking the time to answer my questions!
The Goat Parade asks Stumptown Footy:
1. The Timbers have taken points in five straight games, including a road win over New York over the weekend. What's changed in recent weeks to get Portland going this season?
Scoring! Apart from the truly bizarre game against Seattle Sounders, the Timbers scored no more than one goal in any game until May 3. Since then they've scored at least twice in three of the four games. This all sounds pretty basic but because Portland has made so many dumb defensive mistakes and been called for so many penalties (a trend that has not yet ceased) a lack of scoring made it difficult to get results. Now that it's not only Gaston Fernandez scoring late goals, the Timbers are able to withstand a defensive miscue. Maximiliano Urruti has had a lot to do with this trend, but so too has Steve Zakuani's emergence as a legitimate option on the left and not just a theoretical one.
2. It seems like Timbers coach Caleb Porter hasn't been satisfied with his defense, even with the improved results. What is the latest on the situation there, and who do you expect to feature against Chivas USA?
The outside backs have been good enough, even with Michael Harrington injured and Alvas Powell suspended. Jorge Villafana, whom you know well, has not been amazing but he's been fine over the past two games. At center back, however, it's been a disaster. Futty Danso was just benched for Rauwshan McKenzie and Pa Modou Kah has repeatedly made terrible mistakes. Norberto Paparatto had been benched since early April but he might be on his way back into the team. The truth is, none of these players are good enough right now to carry the Timbers into the playoffs. Just how the team managed to do so last season, with essentially the same personnel, remains a mystery. I'd guess Paparatto and Kah will start but really it could be any combination of those four. Young Taylor Peay has also made the trip to Los Angeles, but if he plays, it would be the ultimate condemnation of a poor season in central defense.
3. I'm curious about the mindset of Timbers fans at this point in the season. Have they adjusted their expectations for 2014? Still believing big things are ahead for this team?
It's been a weird season so far. Expectations have certainly been lowered from the heights predicted both by fans and so-called experts (myself included). But a slow start is better than a slow finish. Fans tend to believe Caleb Porter when he says the team is better than its record indicates. It probably is, but Timbers fans are also no strangers to bad seasons and unfulfilled promise. The slow start has probably returned a healthy level of cynicism to the fan base that was so quickly cast aside during last season's incredible run. With the Champions League coming late in the summer and another US Open Cup set to start next month, there are still plenty of chances for Portland fans to get wrapped up in the hunt for a trophy, even if the Supporters Shield or MLS Cup are unlikely to be within reach.
4. (Bonus) Prediction for this match?
Portland's scoring goals and attacking players are finally taking Porter's high pressure concept seriously. If that continues, it's going to be trouble for Chivas. Yet there are always chances to take advantage of defensive mistakes, so there will definitely be goals in this one. I'll say Portland will win 2-1 but not without some interesting moments.
Find my answers to Michael's questions here.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!