The Portland Timbers are in the midst of their first trip north to Minnesota for an MLS game, where they'll play Minnesota United this evening at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis (5:00 pm, TV on KPDX).
It's a game that has taken on added importance for a Timbers team that blew a second half lead and was defeated 2-1 by the Colorado Rapids over the weekend in Commerce City. With Seattle looming on Sunday back at home, Portland will want to end its road trip with a positive result.
Minnesota United made its MLS debut in the opening game of the season at Providence Park in March, and were summarily routed 5-1 by a Timbers team that began the season in rampant form.
Things didn't get better from there for Minnesota. The Loons were outscored in their next three games by a combined 13-5, and exited their first month of top flight existence with one point and a goal differential of -12.
From there, though, things stabilized. The Loons haven't exactly been good — their still in dead last in the league with just fourteen points from fifteen games and have struggled in June — but they're three times the team they were in Portland. Getting Jermaine Taylor out of the lineup certainly helped.
This will be the Timbers' first game in Minnesota since August of 2010, when a Ryan Pore penalty gave Portland a 1-0 win over the Minnesota Stars in front of a crowd of 1,429 at the National Sports Center in Blaine. Seven years later, soccer in the Twin Cities has come an awfully long way.
This game comes on just three days rest for the Timbers, who played and lost on Saturday night in Colorado and are looking forward to a massive game on Sunday afternoon at home against Seattle.
Thus, we should see Caleb Porter rotate his team as much as he feels he can. Alvas Powell will likely make his first start in over a month at right back in place of Zarek Valentin, while Porter would do well to rest Vytas and get Marco Farfan back in the lineup for the first time since April at left back.
The Timbers remain shorthanded at center back — where Liam Ridgewell is out through at least the Seattle game — and up top, where Darren Mattocks could be available off the bench on Wednesday night but isn't fit to start.
Portland does have David Guzman coming back from suspension, and he should start in midfield. The question is how much — if at all — Porter wants to change his attacking unit. Darlington Nagbe, for one, has traveled plenty in the last several weeks, and looked extremely tired at the end of the game on Saturday.
It's an interesting game for Porter to manage. The Seattle game on Sunday is, for obvious reasons, the primary focus of this week. But tonight's game is still an intra-conference match — and one that the Timbers should be gunning for a minimum of a point in. We'll see how Porter decides to play it.
Minnesota has been in a rut recently, having lost and been shutout in their last three matches across all competitions. United is down left back Marc Burch, who has an adductor injury, and only named five substitutes for their game last Saturday at Real Salt Lake.
90 - Gleeson
32 - Farfan
7 - Miller
13 - Olum
2 - Powell
20 - Guzman
21 - Chara
6 - Nagbe
8 - Valeri (C)
10 - Blanco
9 - Adi
Minnesota has been tough at home, but expect the Timbers to respond after the disappointment of that second half at Colorado. 1-1 draw.