After drawing the Chicago Fire on Saturday in Illinois, the Portland Timbers — still in search of their first shutout of 2016 — return to Providence Park for the club's fifteenth and final MLS match before the league breaks for the group stage of the Copa America tournament.
And Wednesday's game is a big one — a clash against a worthy Western Conference competitor in Dominic Kinnear's San Jose Earthquakes that will set the mood for the Timbers heading into the Copa America break. (7:30 PM, TV on KPTV)
The Timbers and Earthquakes have already squared off twice this year, with each team defending home turf — the 'Quakes won 2-1 at Avaya Stadium in March behind a wonder goal from Quincy Amerikwa, while the Timbers won a hard-fought battle at Providence Park in April by a final score of 3-1.
This game, however, won't look anything like the other two. San Jose will be without Simon Dawkins, Alberto Quintero, Anibal Goody, Kip Colvey — the rookie whose slip led to Jack McInerney's opener in Portland in the last meeting — and, perhaps most notably, Chris Wondolowski.
The Timbers will be missing Darlington Nagbe and Jermaine Taylor, with Nagbe's absence in particular causing problems last weekend at Chicago. These two teams know each other exceptionally well, but all the personnel upheaval means that this will be a game in which two of the league's best coaches can make a serious impact.
San Jose has never won in Portland — losing its last three match-ups in the Rose City — but, by the same token, the Timbers have never beaten the 'Quakes twice in a single year.
Injuries and absences mean that Caleb Porter doesn't have a lot of flexibility tactically, but one big return should boost his side.
Fanendo Adi, who has worked his way back to full fitness, is expected to start to his first match since the Timbers' loss to NYCFC earlier in the month. Dairon Asprilla, who has worked his way back into Porter's good graces, should keep his place as well.
Frustrations with Chris Klute may be at an all-time high, but with Jermaine Taylor on international duty, Porter doesn't really have anywhere else to turn at left-back. It's not out of the realm of possibility that Jack Jewsbury could see a start after Ben Zemanski played 90 minutes on Saturday. Jewsbury is the better passer, and the Timbers figure to see a lot of the ball in this game.
It's more unlikely — but not impossible — that Jack McInerney could replace the upsettingly bad Lucas Melano in the team.
As for the 'Quakes, the list of absences is extensive and noted above. On Saturday, with a similarly depleted roster, San Jose kept their home game against Dallas compact and ground out a 0-0 draw. They'll look to play a similar match on Wednesday. It'll be up to the Timbers midfield — a unit that looked short on ideas against the Fire — to break the Earthquakes' defense down.
90 - Gleeson
16 - Valentin
24 - Ridgewell (C)
7 - Borchers
15 - Klute
13 - Jewsbury
21 - Chara
11 - Asprilla
8 - Valeri
26 - Melano
9 - Adi
It's tempting fate — but considering the Timbers' dominance in this series and the Earthquakes' missing pieces — I'll say Portland gets a 1-0 win.