A whole new month. All new challenges. A brand new lineup?
The Timbers were certainly happy to turn their calendar to July after a winless June saw Portland go from toast of MLS to just plain toast.
It's been pretty gloomy lately around Timberland, which was shut out in three of its four June matches and closed out the month with a 4-0 thumping at FC Dallas that left coach John Spencer sick/spitting mad and owner Merritt Paulson calling the whole operation "disgraceful."
The Timbers (5-7-3) have misplaced their mojo—big time—and fans are hoping Portland can show a glimmer of its old self before a road-trippy second half defines the inaugural big-league season. With 10 of their final 18 road matches away from the House of Pane, the Timbers will look to shake a five-match winless streak tonight against a Sporting Kansas City club (4-6-5) that hasn't lost since May 21.
That date ring a bell? Yes, it's the very day Portland last tasted victory, a 1-0 win over Columbus that had a bit to do with a Spencer text message sent to former Crew member Eric Brunner that read: "A Columbus player is going to kick your ass tomorrow."
This week, in preparation for tonight's 8 p.m. match (Fox 12 and 750 AM) against Capt. Jack Jewsbury's old club, Spencer might as well have sent a mass text 'round the whole locker room that read: "A Scottish coach is going to send your ass to the bench."
The only question is which regular starters will sit. Speculation is rampant that guy-on-the-big-posters Kenny Cooper (who's entangled in an eight-match scoreless streak) will step aside in favor of reserve-team-hot-hand Eddie Johnson.
Also expected to see increased time is Gold Cupper Steve Purdy, who said Friday that practice was intense this week as guys jousted for playing time in Spencer's suddenly wide-open lineup.
"You're always trying to get a spot, but when the coach publicly says (no starting job is safe), it's your chance to really bear down," said Purdy. "There's been a lot more enthusiasm and aggressiveness in training."
And how that translates into tonight's match may be just the thing to forecast a busy July.
More climate change talk after the jump, including EXTRA TIME links to give you a sporting chance at being set for first kick.
EXTRA TIME! Links to help you LIVESTRONGER.
• No Cooper? No problem! At least according to Geoff Gibson of Stumptown Footy.
• The Timbers are "desperate to use Sporting KC as a turn-around point," says Timbers Insider Kelly McLain.
• KC will look to fill a "major hole in its midfield" with Capt. Davy Arnaud out for at least a month, reports Fox Sports.
• MLSsoccer.com's preview notes KC has "pulled themselves out of the cellar" and into contention in the Eastern Conference.
• PDX and KC are "two teams heading in very, very different directions," says Denz of SB Nation.
• Mao's Football Show caught up with Paulson earlier this week and the owner suggested his team might be "too nice."
• The team's official site has Brian's Costello's key match-up along with John Strong's always pithy talking points.
• And one internal note: No live-blog tonight (My urshering duties are needed at a wedding—congrats Christina and Brian!) but I'll have a full recap tomorrow ... win, lose or hung over as hell.