Six games into the 2016 season, the defending champion Portland Timbers have won just once — on opening day more than a month ago — and currently hold the second worst goal differential in all of MLS. On Wednesday night, the Timbers were humiliated at home by FC Dallas, trailing 3-0 in the first half on their way to a 3-1 loss.
On Saturday, the Timbers — weary, wounded, and in need of a response — will face up to their third game in seven days. It will be another Western Conference tilt, as the San Jose Earthquakes make their first trip to Providence Park since last July (7:30 PM, TV on ROOT Sports).
The Timbers have already faced San Jose in 2016, losing to the 'Quakes 2-1 at Avaya Stadium almost one month ago. That game would be a harbinger of things to come — Portland started slow and was down 2-0 at halftime, while Quincy Amerikwa's thirty-five-yard chip will surely be a candidate for Goal of the Season.
San Jose's made just one trip to Portland in 2015 — on a July 5th day that was so hot, the two teams and ESPN decided to move the game from a 2:00 PM start time to 8:00 PM. Jack Jewsbury would score a circus winner for the Timbers in stoppage time to clinch a thrilling 1-0 win.
The Timbers have historically fared well against San Jose at home, having never lost to the 'Quakes at Providence Park. Of course, before Wednesday night, the Timbers had never lost to Dallas at home either.
Anything could happen. A combination of fatigue, injury, and poor performance has meant that at least half of the spots in the Timbers' starting lineup aren't settled.
Here's what we think we know: Darlington Nagbe, Liam Ridgewell, Ben Zemanski, are all still out injured. Dairon Asprilla is hurt too, but may have an outside chance to play. Ned Grabavoy escaped a suspension from the Disciplinary Committee, but after his nightmarish start on Wednesday, he's unlikely to retain his spot in the starting lineup. Ditto for Jack Jewsbury, whose struggles were well documented.
And now we can add Alvas Powell to the ranks of the sidelined. The Jamaican defender tore a ligament in his wrist on Wednesday night, underwent surgery, and will be out six to eight weeks. Taylor Peay should get the nod to replace him, though Zarek Valentin is also an option in that position.
Nat Borchers needed stitches after a clash with Dallas' Maynor Figueroa, and his status is up in the air. Poor performances from Jermaine Taylor and Lucas Melano have warranted benchings, but the Timbers might not have the depth to pull any of them. It might be a lot to ask of Chris Klute, meanwhile, to play his third game in seventh days in his first full week back from injury.
Darron Mattocks, Jack McInerney, and Jack Barmby were all bright spots on Wednesday, and all could potentially start against the 'Quakes. If Jewsbury is held out and Zemanski can't play, Porter will most likely have no choice but to shift back to the 4-3-3.
One thing is abundantly clear: Portland has to improve defensively. The forward line of Chris Wondolowski and Amerikwa is one of MLS' best. Former U-23 Timber Fatai Alashe has hit a good vein of form in the San Jose midfield.
12 - Kwarasey
20 - Peay
4 - Taylor
7 - Borchers
16 - Valentin
21 - Chara
8 - Valeri (C)
23 - Barmby
26 - Melano
22 - Mattocks
9 - Adi
It'd be hard to believe that the Timbers would lose again at home, but the players they currently have available aren't good enough to dominate or even win most games. 2-2 draw.