The Portland Timbers make their first trip to the Bay Area in over a year to take on the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night at Avaya Stadium (7:30 PM, TV on KPDX).
The Timbers, after drawing undefeated FC Dallas last weekend in Frisco, sit in second place the Western Conference standings after two months of the season — having picked up more points in their first nine games than they got in their first fourteen matches of last season.
The Timbers are making their first trip to Avaya Stadium — a ground that they've never won at — since March of last year. San Jose won that game 2-1 behind a wonder-goal from Quincy Amerikwa. The 2015 meeting at Avaya finished 0-0, with Diego Valeri slamming a second half penalty off the crossbar.
All in all, the Timbers have had the better of the matchup over the last several years. They beat the 'Quakes twice in Portland last year, once in April and once with ten men in June, and have gotten a win against San Jose at least once in every MLS season they've played.
There has been some question this week about whether Portland-San Jose — which dates back to the clubs' NASL days — is a rivalry. The Earthquakes' social media account tweeted that it is, and Timbers fans mostly chuckled in response.
While there was some real animosity between these teams and — thanks to the disgraceful behavior of San Jose's supporters' group the 1906 Ultras — their fanbases in 2013, it has long since passed. In truth, the Earthquakes haven't been good enough in recent seasons to warrant that kind of attention.
The Timbers' attacking injury concerns are piling up. Diego Valeri remains out of training while recovering from the hip injury he sustained two weeks ago against Vancouver, while Darlington Nagbe's status for Saturday is unknown after he limped off late in the game against Dallas with a hamstring problem.
If Valeri can't play, Sebastian Blanco will likely reprise his role in the center of attack with a spot on the wing up for grabs. Dairon Asprilla has started the last two games, but Darren Mattocks had an excellent April and might be in line for a start. Both players will likely start if Nagbe can't go as well.
Things are looking better for the Timbers in defense, where Jake Gleeson trained this week and will be available to step back into goal in front of a backline that should be unchanged for the third straight game.
The 'Quakes have been goal challenged this year, scoring more than once just one time in their first nine games. Until they beat Minnesota last weekend, Dom Kinnear's team had gone six games without a win. There are rumors of reinforcements arriving before the end of the MLS' primary transfer window on Monday.
The Timbers have had an extremely good start to the season on the road, with three wins and the draw in Dallas in five games. Much of that success has been predicated on scoring the first goal — something Portland has done eight times already this year. If they do the same on Saturday, and force San Jose to chase the game, they'll be in business.
90 - Gleeson
5 - Vytas
24 - Ridgewell (C)
13 - Olum
2 - Powell
20 - Guzman
21 - Chara
27 - Asprilla
10 - Blanco
11 - Mattocks
9 - Adi
Games against San Jose are never pretty, but they're usually tight: The 'Quakes have played only one game decided by more than one goal all year. With Valeri and Nagbe both potentially out, a 1-1 draw seems most likely.