Just five days removed from their biggest win of the season over the New York Red Bulls, the Portland Timbers are back in action at Providence Park tonight for a midweek clash against the lowly Colorado Rapids (7:30 p.m., TV on KPDX).
It's one of the easiest games on the Timbers' schedule, and it's another must-win. For the next month, in which Portland will play at Seattle, New York City, and Real Salt Lake, points are going to be awfully hard to come by.
The Rapids last week dispatched with their fourth-year manager Pablo Mastroeni, firing the club legend with the team in tenth place in the Western Conference and scoring the fewest goals per game in MLS.
The first game of the post-Pablo era on Saturday in Commerce City gave a clear snapshot of how deep the club's problems run: Colorado lost 1-0 to DC United — the worst team in the league — on a near-comical own goal.
The Timbers have won six straight meetings against the Rapids in Portland, a streak dating back to 2012. The Rapids' only win at Providence Park came all the way back in June of 2011, when a 92nd winner from Drew Moor secured a highly controversial 1-0 victory in a game in which John Spencer was sent off.
Colorado has, however, had better success against the Timbers at home — coming from behind in the second half to win the first meeting between the clubs this season 2-1 on a late Alan Gordon goal. It would be Mastroeni's penultimate win as manager.
Jake Gleeson and Liam Ridgewell remain sidelined and will back for the Seattle game at the earliest, but Fanendo Adi — who has been sidelined since injuring himself in the second half of the LA game at the beginning of the month — could be back in the lineup tonight.
Adi's presence has been missed. Darren Mattocks struggled in Toronto and had a mostly torrid cameo on Friday, while Jeremy Ebobisse, despite his intelligence and work-rate, faded in the game against the Red Bulls. If Adi can't go, or if the Timbers choose to hold him back for Seattle, Ebobisse should get another shot to start.
One player who will miss out for Portland tonight is center back Larrys Mabiala, who was sent off against the Red Bulls and is suspended. Roy Miller will slide over from left back to partner Lawrence Olum — coming off of his best Timbers appearance — in central defense, with Vytas taking Miller's place.
Colorado will defend well, but they're averaging less than a goal per game and are 0-8-1 on the road this season. In a perfect world, the Timbers will get out to an early lead and allow Caleb Porter to, in a nod to the derby looming on Sunday, rest the likes of Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri in the second half.
1 - Attinella
5 - Vytas
7 - Miller
13 - Olum
16 - Valentin
20 - Guzman
21 - Chara
6 - Nagbe
8 - Valeri (C)
10 - Blanco
17 - Ebobisse
Colorado is the worst team in the league. The Timbers, playing with renewed confidence, should roll. They win 3-0.