The San Jose Earthquakes are heading to Providence Park on Saturday to face the Portland Timbers.
The Quakes enters this match with momentum after defeating the New York Red Bulls 2-0 on Wednesday at the Avaya Stadium. That victory has put San Jose in fourth place in the Western Conference with 11 points. The Earthquakes are in prime position to move up the standings with a victory on Saturday.
Only three points separate the Northern California club from first place FC Dallas. Only a point separates them from second place, Sporting Kansas City. The only difference between the Quakes and third place Real Salt Lake is goal differential. If San Jose is able to take care of business and pick up three points in Portland then they might potentially be in the top three.
Of course that’s if RSL fails to pick up any points against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium. Also, the Earthquakes will be hoping that the Dallas and SKC matchup on Sunday at Toyota Stadium ends in a draw.
Injuries not fazing Earthquakes
Even though the Earthquakes have been hit with the injury bug this season, they still have been able to perform. San Jose currently has seven players on their list, and six of them have been ruled out. The players are: Marc Pelosi (Chronic tendinitis in left knee), Cordell Cato (Right hamstring injury), Jordan Stewart (Right Achilles injury), Chad Barrett (Right groin injury), Clarence Goodson (Back tightness) and Mark Sherrod (Left knee injury). Panamanian intentional midfielder Anibal Godoy has not been ruled out of this game with his knee injury.
MLS Cup hangover?
The Timbers on the other hand have had an awful start to the 2016 Major League Soccer season. Portland has not won a match since the season opener against the Columbus Crew at Providence Park. Since that 2-1 victory, they have lost three of the next five matches. Their most recent result was a 3-1 home defeat to the Toros on Wednesday.
The defending MLS Cup Champions are currently in ninth place with just five points in six matches. The Timbers also have a negative five goal differential. However, a victory on Saturday can put them back into the race for sixth place and possibly higher. By just beating the Quakes they will decrease the gap between the two clubs from six points to three.
Similar to the Quakes the Timbers have had an injury problem. However, their injuries have hit some crucial players. Their defense is now without three players. Jamaican international defender Alvas Powell after having a wrist surgery this week will be out of action for the next six to eight weeks for Portland. Then you add in the other two defenders who are out for the Timbers: Andy Thoma (Knee injury) and captain Liam Ridgewell (Hamstring injury).
Their midfield has also been depleted with three injuries. However, the good news for Portland’s manager Caleb Porter is that two of the midfielder can potentially see some action against the Quakes.
Ben Zemanski (Groin injury) and Dairon Asprilla (Foot injury) have been marked as questionable for this match. Only U.S. international Darlington Nagbe has been ruled out of this game with an ankle injury. The Timbers will be hoping to build on their success against the Northern California club at home on Saturday.
Tough times for San Jose in Portland
San Jose has not been able to win a match in Portland since the Timbers entered the league in 2011. In seven attempts the Quakes best result has been three draws. Their overall record against the Timbers on the road is (W-D-L) 4-3-0. However, they can potentially change that since the Earthquakes have already defeated Portland 2-1 this season at the Avaya Stadium on March 13th.
The road to victory for the Quakes
If the Quakes want to pick up their first victory at Providence Park, the usual suspects will need to come through for San Jose. U.S. international Chris Wondolowski will need to continue his hot start to the season on Saturday. Wondolowski has scored five times in only six matches this campaign. His performance has tied Ante Razov for fourth in the all time MLS goal scoring list with 114.
Quincy Amarikwa will need to use his pace against the depleted Timbers defense to create gaps. His creativity will either set up others or he will record his second goal of the season. Simon Dawkins, Matías Pérez García, Fatai Alashe and Alberto Quintero have to dictate the tempo of the match and push the Timbers back line till they break.
How the Timbers pick up three points
For Portland to pick up their second victory Diego Valeri and Diego Chará have to control the middle of the pitch. Chará will need to be on top of the Quakes, be first to loose balls and win 50/50 challenges. Valeri will need to push the tempo and find a way to get Fanendo Adi and Lucas Melano active in front of goal early in the match.
Another key factor for Porter and company is to get the Timbers Army involved early. The Timbers will need their fans to push them early in the game to attempt to go ahead. The game plan for Portland is simple get an early goal to force the Quakes to go on the offensive. If that happens a player like Valeri can easily pick apart San Jose and increase the lead for the home side.
Prediction: Portland 3-2 San Jose