Not that I need remind you, but the Timbers fell 3-2 last week to loathed Seattle, extending their MLS winless streak to seven matches. Nothing good about that statement, right?
Well, at the very least, struggling Portland may have found some semblance of an offensive rhythm on Sunday, as lineup/tactical changes produced a pair of second-half, run-of-play goals and a Starting XI that fought with a feverish pace from the start.
Can we expect more of the same today when the Timbers travel to Chicago?
If so, Portland will have to do it without its most consistent—dare I say "talismanic?"—defensive presence this season, Eric Brunner, who was red-carded against Seattle and suspended for today's match against the Fire. Kevin Goldthwaite, who started in the team's opening two road matches but plummeted on the depth chart after rough showings, is tasked with helping Portland's D give the offense some breathing room and avoid the same defensive issues that flared up last week (and could be set ablaze on the road). Goldthwaite provides an offensive spark, but Timbers fans would likely trade any back-footed pokes for a consistent day of cleared challenges from a veteran certainly to be challenged by Chicago's Dominic Oduro.
With the team's confidence a bit shaky and orders of "man up" coming from the top, any result away from home (where Portland has yet to win) would be welcome for the Timbers. And yielding a draw would hardly be out of the ordinary against the Fire, who've managed 12 ties this season (in undoubtedly stirring action) and haven't exactly been luminous since falling to Portland in April in the Rose City's MLS home debut.
First kick is at 5:30 (on Fox 12, 750 AM), and to hold you over, click past the jump for some EXTRA TIME links.
EXTRA TIME! Now that's links!
• Coach John Spencer speaks with KGW's Michael Burk on Friday about his frustrated locker room and not sweating rumors about his job security.
• If Kenny Cooper's on the move, SB Nation's Jeremiah Oshan outlines five landing places for the struggling forward rumored to be on the trading block. Fans, at least according to this Stumptown Footy poll, are largely conflicted on whether to cut allegiances with KFC.
• A Chicago team "overloaded with ties" will look for a rare win tonight against Portland, says Len Ziehm of the Sun-Times.
• "Spencer has gone through several juggling acts with formation and positional switches in an attempt to find a winning combination that probably doesn't exist," says Guillermo Rivera of ChicagoNow.
• The Fire "will have an ax to grind" against the Timbers, says Charlie Corr of ESPN.
• The Timbers could help the Fire "break out of their funk," says FoxSports' match preview.
• Feel the sudden urge to break down defensive tactics? Ryan Gates of Stumptown Footy has your back, while Geoff Gibson has his weekly Q&A sesh with an opponent-backing blogger.
• More national-media love for the Pacific Northwest's soccer culture. From Ian Thompson of the New York Times:
The Timbers are obviously surfing a first-season wave, but soccer has ingrained itself into the local counterculture in a unique way for an American city. It’s as if the high school geeks have found their fraternity through football and a soccer scarf gives instant street cred on a par with a fleet of tattoos or a mane of purple hair.
And from Chris Ryan of ESPN-backed Grantland:
There are lots of reasons why I think Portland has taken to football. For one, there's little to distract local sports fans. The MLS season heats up right around the time news hits that Greg Oden is beginning his annual, offseason rehab on his knees and a little before the Oregon Ducks begin their college football season in earnest. It fills a void.