Game 12: Portland Timbers v. NSC Minnesota StarsBy: mao | June 16th, 2010
2010 Match-Up Images Courtesy of Spacewalk Creative
Fresh from a 3-0 victory in the US Open Cup, Portland Timbers will host the first of two consecutive games against NSC Minnesota in a home-and-home series. Minnesota are directly ahead of Portland in the USL table and are currently the only side preventing a return to the playoffs for the Timbers. Minnesota also won their US Open Cup first round game and have not lost in their past three league games. That is contrasted with the Timbers who have not won since April and lost their last game away to Miami.
Some might suggest that last night’s 3-0 win over Sonoma County Sol in the US Open Cup could effect positive change for the Timbers’ regular season game tomorrow. Of course the Timbers defeated Boca Juniors in a friendly and followed that up with two draws and a loss while scoring just one goal in three games. But perhaps Alex Nimo’s goal can finally get the diminutive winger on track and prevent every one of his shots from sailing over the crossbar.
Gavin Wilkinson played starters across the board in the Open Cup last night so there is a good chance that several changes will be made, particularly in defense. Futty Danso will likely rest while Stephen Keel and Quavas Kirk should be back in the line-up with Scot Thompson headed back to the bench. Wilkinson experimented with playing Nimo as an interior midfielder with Brian Farber (and later Rodrigo Lopez) and Ryan Pore on the wings. That was successful in every way except in scoring goals against Sonoma County, but might not be a bad way to play in the league. Something has to change up front for the Timbers, even if Wilkinson continues to foolishly start Mandjou Keita. Taka Suzuki played well and finally scored in the Open Cup but the likelihood of his starting two games in three days is very low. Bright Dike will probably return up front.
As for Minnesota, they have a porous defense, allowing 19 goals in their 13 games. Their -8 goal differential shows that they clearly have weak spots that can be exploited. Yet in their last three games the Stars earned an away draw to Rochester and defeated Montreal (as well as defeating St. Louis). Only allowing two goals in their last three suggets that Minnesota are starting to figure out their defense and that could mean that their season could improve dramatically. Offensively, Neil Hlavaty, Brian Cvilikas and Daniel Wasson have led the way, combining to score seven of the club’s eleven goals.
If the Timbers have any hope of reaching the playoffs in this final second division season, they’ll need to get going quickly. The season is more than a third over and only three wins have Portland ahead of only three clubs in the entire league. There is little to suggest Portland are not capable of claiming a playoff position before the season ends, but if they continue to fail to earn results against lower tier teams like Minnesota, perhaps a truly disappointing finish is a reality.