Could Eddie Johnson really start for Portland this weekend in place of Kenny Cooper?
  • Steel Brooks/Portland Timbers
  • Could Eddie Johnson (The guy on the left. With the ball.) really start for Portland this weekend in place of All-Star nominee Kenny Cooper?

With less than a week left to get your votes in, Portland All-Star nominee Kenny Cooper may be more worried about his starting role for the Timbers this weekend than his shot at MLS' starting XI.

A five-match winless streak (and messy showing at oppressively-heated Dallas) has Portland coach John Spencer seething and talking lineup changes across the board for his team, with the chatter being the struggling forward on an eight-match scoreless skid (otherwise known as KFC) is a prime candidate for riding the Timbers' pine.

Spencer let it be known earlier this week that he wasn't "blowing smoke," and after today's practice, he gave The Oregonian's Geoffrey C. Arnold (who must've found a comfy seat and waited it out after the Timbers took the field more than an hour later than scheduled) enough indication to tweet this:

Johnson 4 Cooper. Zizzo 4 Nagbe Purdy 4 hall. Spencer said he's still thinking about changes.

Translation? Reserve-team striker Eddie Johnson could replace Cooper, throwback midfielder Sal Zizzo could start for rookie SuperDraft pick Darlington Nagbe and Gold Cup participant Steve Purdy could see time on defense for Jeremy Hall.

And if it's those regular starters potentially seeing their roles diminished, a few other struggling players must've picked things up between now and when Spencer said this on Tuesday:

"We're at the stage now where you're only as good as your next game. There's places up for grabs now. When you play as poorly as that, you can accept it as an off-day, but now we seem to be getting on the road and getting beat too easy at times. It's unacceptable. I told them that.

"For us, there's no guaranteed starters. You've got to earn your right to play this weekend. I've told them that I'm not blowing smoke, the time has come where maybe we need to freshen things up a bit."

I don't peg Spencer as the bluffing type, and the former English Premiere League forward certainly knows as much about a striker's mentality than anyone. But benching Cooper for Johnson? (As Spencer did at the start of Tuesday's practice) It might be just the right touch of tough love to snap the former U.S. National teamer out of his funk ... or it could further deflate the confidence of a guy who just hasn't been the same since Cooper lost his head after being pulled off a third attempt at a penalty kick against DC a month ago.