The Portland Timbers play their first MLS home game for the better part of a month on Sunday against the Houston Dynamo (3:00 PM, TV on ESPN2) with a number of question marks swirling around the team.
First and foremost is the future of Fanendo Adi. The team's leading goalscorer took his desire to move to a bigger club — namely Tigres in Mexico's Liga MX — public earlier in the week. Adi's main impetus for moving appears to be his national team prospects with Nigeria, but his timing has created an unfortunate and uncomfortable situation for the Timebrs — who cannot possibly sell him at this stage of the season.
The Adi situation makes for an uneasy backdrop to a game the Timbers should win. Houston, who recently fired manager Owen Coyle, are currently sitting at the foot of the Western Conference.
This is the first meeting of the year between the Timbers and Dynamo. The teams met thrice last season, with Houston winning at BBVA Compass Stadium in May, the Timbers winning at home in June, and the most exciting matchup seeing Portland come back from a 2-0 second half deficit to draw 2-2 in August.
In all three of those games, the Dynamo were led by Coyle. But Houston's lack of direction, combined, of course, with their poor results to start the year, led Coyle to lose his job in May. His interim replacement is former Dynamo player and assistant Wade Barrett, who has made the team, at a minimum, more competitive since taking charge.
The Timbers have only won two of the eight all-time meetings between the two teams, but they haven't lost to Houston at home since the Dynamo knocked the then John Spencer-coached Timbers out of playoff contention in 2011.
Despite the fact Jurgen Klinsmann refuses to play him, Darlington Nagbe will be with the US national team through Saturday's Copa America third place match in Glendale and won't be available for the Timbers on Sunday.
Without Nagbe, Porter has to make a decision about Lucas Melano's spot on the wing. The Argentine did score his second-ever goal for the Timbers last Saturday against Real Salt Lake, but outside of that, was absolutely pathetic.
With Porter favorite Darren Mattocks fit again, and Dairon Asprilla due back from suspension, Melano's place could be in jeopardy. Also more likely to be dropped than not is Ned Grabavoy, who lined up as a sort of false winger last weekend.
One bright spot for Portland is the fitness of Alvas Powell. The Jamaican fullback, who hasn't played since he tore a ligament in his wrist in April, could make his first start since April. Powell's would likely push Zarek Valentin to left back and Jermaine Taylor, mercifully, out of the team.
Houston has drawn all three of their MLS games since Barrett took charge, conceding only twice in the process. If anything, they'll be tough to break down. The Timbers can make the game much easier on themselves by getting an early goal.
90 - Gleeson
2 - Powell
24 - Ridgewell (C)
7 - Borchers
16 - Valentin
14 - Zemanski
21 - Chara
11 - Asprilla
8 - Valeri
22 - Mattocks
9 - Adi
There's plenty of uncertainty around the Timbers right now, both with regards to Adi's situation, and that of Adam Kwarasey's considering the play of Jake Gleeson in his stead. On the field though, this team has been very good recently. Expect a comfortable 2-0 win on Sunday.