May 6, 2011, 3:05 PM EST
The Union will be under the bright lights of Fox Soccer’s inaugural “Soccer Night in America” tonight as they travel to Portland to play the Timbers (10:30PM/Fox Soccer (obviously)). The Timbers, who are 3-0 at Jeld-Wen Field this season, play in front of what may be the most impressive home crowd in MLS.
Sure, it’s only been three MLS games, but the Timbers have some serious soccer history. The Timbers, in one form or another, have been playing soccer in the Pacific Northwest since 1976 back in the North American Soccer League. Check out Philly.com’s Jonathan Tannenwald’s excellent look at the history of soccer in Portland.
In addition to the intimidating atmosphere the Union will also face a Timbers side that has shown an ability to put the ball in the back of the net. Portland has scored ten goals already this season, which is double the Union’s goal total (Portland has played one more game).
Former USMNT forward Kenny Cooper leads the Timbers with three goals. He’s a strong target man who has surprisingly quick feet. Jorge Perlaza, Jack Jewsbury, and Rodney Wallace have each scored two goals thus far. By comparison, Carlos Ruiz is the lone Union player to score more than one goal (he’s got two).
On the flipside, compared to the Union the Timbers are a veritable sieve defensively. Portland’s conceded 13 goals already. The Union? Yeah, they’ve given up just two goals. Clean sheets!
One player the Union will not have is outside back Jordan Harvey, who will be serving his red card suspension. It remains to be seen who will fill that void, but the most likely candidate is Michael Farfan.
Farfan was inserted into the lineup following Harvey’s sending off against San Jose last week. Harvey has been an iron man of sorts, as his streak of 74 consecutive games will come to an end (h/t to Peter Hirdt and the Elias Sports Bureau for that nugget). I’ll miss his “My Name Is Earl”-esque mustache running up and down the flank.
What the rest of the Union lineup will look like remains TBD. Last week Peter Nowak, who obviously has been reading my previews, finally came around and gave Roger Torres a start. It’s tough to fairly assess the lineup change as Torres was subbed off for Farfan after Harvey picked up the red. Stefani Miglioranzi is listed as probable (groin strain), but I’d like to see Nowak go back to Torres.
Danny Mwanga is another player who got a starting nod last week. Mwanga, who settled in Portland with his mother after leaving Democratic Republic of the Congo, is making his homecoming. The second year forward played his college ball at Oregon State before being selected first overall by the Union in the 2010 MLS Super Draft. You know there’s nothing Mwanga would like more than to open his account in his hometown.
Here’s the lineup I hope we see tonight: Mondragon, Farfan, Califf, Valdes, Williams, Okugo, Torres, Daniel, Le Toux, Mwanga, Ruiz.
Final Score Prediction: This is a tough spot for the U. They’re flying cross country, dealing with the time change, playing in a hostile atmosphere, and facing a team who is undefeated at home. With that being said, I think the Union are mentally tough enough to handle all of that. I think they earn a nice road point with a 1-1 draw (which would be the first time a visiting team picked up a point at Jeld-Wen)
The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely To See Red: Last week I threaten to get rid of this gimmick and Jordan Harvey goes ahead and sees red. Ok, I won’t get rid of it. Fine. I’ll say Farfan gets sent off tonight. A rookie making his first start in a raucous stadium located in the Pacific Northwest?
Those are the exact circumstances which led me to name this little exercise in ridiculousness after Toni Stahl (who was sent off in the Union’s first ever game, which was played in Seattle). Sorry, Michael. The parallels are just too strong not to go with you.
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