Skip to content

MLS match preview: Portland Timbers at San Jose Earthquakes

Apr 21, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

San Jose Earthquakes v AIK - Portland Timbers Tournament Getty Images

Portland’s undergone so many changes since last year, it’s useless to leverage any past experience to prepare for Caleb Porter’s new-look Timbers. And since their style’s so different from any other team in Major League Soccer, opponents don’t have a deafult plan to contain that type of approach. In a league short on stylistic diversity, Porter’s possession-hogging style can catch opponents by surprise, particularly on first impression.

That’s a theory that has a flip side. If a pass-happy Portland is benefiting from opponents being caught off guard, they’re likely in for some regression the second time around the league. Once a team’s been exposed to the Timbers’ venom, they can start developing some resistance. Eventually, somebody will come up with an antidote. (Not that this metaphor doesn’t describe the entire history of soccer tactics.)

Sunday night, we’ll see if San Jose’s built any resistance. One week after falling at JELD-WEN Field, the Supporters’ Shield holders welcome the Timbers to Buck Shaw, the second of the team’s back-to-back meetings.

The first proved eventful, though not always for the right reasons. Setting aside Alan Gordon’s transgression, San Jose used their physicality to try and slow down the their hosts, a plan that may have worked were it not for Will Johnson’s game-winning, 78th minute direct kick. The 1-0 win was not only Portland’s second-straight victory; it extended San Jose’s winless run to three.

Now the Earthquakes, a team that’s only scored more than one goal in a game once this season, will be without Gordon (suspended for four games). They should also be without Jason Hernandez in central defense, though for a San Jose that’s had to deal with major injury concerns throughout the season, there is some good news. Marvin Chavez, last year’s team leader in assists, declared himself ready-to-go on Wednesday, while right back Steven Beitashour played 45 minutes in a reserve match on Monday. If both play, San Jose will be as healthy as they’ve been all season despite the absences of Gordon and Hernandez.

But the Earthquakes biggest advantage may have nothing to do with their squad and everything to do with where Sunday’s game will be played. Through their first two-plus years in the league, Portland has only won three road games, a terrible “success rate” that’s yet to change under Porter. While the Timbers have drawn both their road games this season (at Seattle and at Colorado), they fell behind each time, giving up early goals in matches then never led. With Portland employing noticeably different approaches in their two road games (compared to what they’ve done at home), Porter’s yet to show this team can shake their Jekyll and Hyde ways.

The return of Diego Valeri might help. The Timbers’ Argentine playmaker missed last Sunday’s game. Portland elected to exercise caution while adhering to concussion protocol. This week, Valeri’s set to return, an addition which could help the Timbers convert their possession advantage (64.7 percent last week) into more shots on goal (only two).

For San Jose, Gordon’s absence could be a blessing in disguise. While it goes limit Frank Yallop’s options at forward, it almost assures the Earthquakes will play Chris Wondolowski up top, something that didn’t happen in Portland. At JELD-WEN, Yallop elected to use “Wondo” at right midfield while starting Gordon and Steven Lenhart at forward, a deployment that limited Wondolowski’s influence. With Chavez back a Gordon out, Wondolowski should return to the forward role that allowed him to win last year’s Most Valuable Player award.

Regardless of who starts, San Jose will need to come up with another way to slow down Portland. Last week, the Timbers responded to being roughed up, and given Yallop’s tactical preferences, we’re unlikely to see the kind of formation change that would help offset the Timbers’ advantages through the middle.

San Jose needs a new trick, but whatever approach Yallop employs, its success will likely hinge on the simplest thing: Can the San Jose’s team just play better?

Latest Posts
  1. Watch Live: Aston Villa vs. Newcastle United (Lineups)

    Aug 23, 2014, 7:10 AM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-ASTON VILLA-NEWCASTLE Getty Images

    Aston Villa and Newcastle United’s starting lineups are unchanged from opening weekend, and the most notable change is on the Magpies bench.

  2. WATCH: Premier League online via NBC Sports Live Extra – Week 2

    Aug 23, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

    LE_WEB_BANNER_40px_RGB_POS

    How and where to watch every single PL game live online or via the app.

  3. Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs. Everton

    Aug 23, 2014, 2:52 AM EDT

    tim_howard Getty Images

    April’s 3-0 loss at Goodison was the low point of Arsenal’s 2013-14 season.

  4. Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Leicester City

    Aug 23, 2014, 1:09 AM EDT

    cesc_fabregas Getty Images

    The Blues are heavy favorites to stay perfect through two rounds.

  5. WATCH: José Mourinho discusses virtues of light early schedule

    Aug 23, 2014, 12:41 AM EDT

    Jose Mourinho AP

    With one game per week, Chelsea’s players have a chance to settle into their roles.

  6. MLS Snapshot: FC Dallas 2-1 Real Salt Lake

    Aug 23, 2014, 12:05 AM EDT

    fabian_castillo Getty Images

    Two goals while playing with 10 send Dallas joint-top of the Western Conference.

  7. WATCH: Previewing the Premier League’s six-match Saturday

    Aug 22, 2014, 9:51 PM EDT

    Roberto Martínez has exceeded early expectations at Everton, his "transition period" seeing the Toffees drop just one of their first 15 league games. (Source: Getty Images.) Getty Images

    The league’s second round kicks off at Villa Park and ends with the main event on Merseyside.

  8. Cristiano Ronaldo threw some punch-like thing at Diego Godín

    Aug 22, 2014, 9:12 PM EDT

    cristiano_ronaldo AP

    List of things Cristiano Ronaldo can’t do: Throw a proper punch.

  9. WATCH LIVE: FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake kick off MLS weekend

    Aug 22, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT

    Matt Hedges, Olmes Garcia AP

    Dallas is undefeated since May, while RSL has a chance to temporarily move clear atop the Western Conference.

  10. MLS Weekend Preview: Trio of marque marquee matches begins Friday in Frisco

    Aug 22, 2014, 7:17 PM EDT

    fabian_castillo Getty Images

    Dallas versus Real Salt Lake, Sporting hosting D.C. see the conferences’ best go head-to-head.

  11. Early Mandzukic goal sees Atlético defeat Real Madrid, claim Spanish Super Cup

    Aug 22, 2014, 6:50 PM EDT

    mario_mandzukic Getty Images

    Early Mandzukic goal gives Atlético its fifth trophy under Simeone.

  12. Top five storylines heading into Week 2 of the Premier League

    Aug 22, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT

    Howard rushed off his line to great effect in the first half to thwart Arsenal's offense. Getty Images

    Toffees and Gunners clash, Liverpool head to Man City, London derby time and much more.

  13. Robben dominance, Malanda miss give Bayern opening match win over Wolfsburg

    Aug 22, 2014, 4:59 PM EDT

    arjen_robben AP

    Goal, assist from Dutch star helped deliver Bayern three points to open the Bundesliga season.

  14. Premier League Preview: Aston Villa vs. Newcastle United

    Aug 22, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT

    Andreas Weimann AP

    Can Villa continue their good start to the season? Watch live, Saturday 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN.

  15. Report: Stoke City seeks European loan for Brek Shea; Many interested

    Aug 22, 2014, 3:17 PM EDT

    Burton Albion v Stoke City - Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    Birmingham City, 1860 Munich, Millwall, Nurnberg… it seems Brek Shea is a man in demand when it comes to his loan from Stoke City.

  16. Bundesliga season preview, predictions: Bayern on top? Sure, but then who?

    Aug 22, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT

    Germany Soccer Cup AP

    The Bavarians added Robert Lewandowski, and look poised to lead again. Who are the favorites to emerge in the race for second?

  17. Prindi’s Premier League Picks: United to get it right, Arsenal to stumble

    Aug 22, 2014, 2:29 PM EDT

    Ryan Giggs, Louis van Gaal AP

    Matchweek 2 brings a few killer games including Everton v. Arsenal on Saturday and Manchester City v. Liverpool on Monday.

  18. Profile: The life and times of Mario Balotelli

    Aug 22, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    Italian forward Mario Balotelli celebrat

    From the early days in Italy, to the craziness of Man City and then back to AC Milan, here’s the timeline of Balotelli’s life so far.

  19. Julian Green gets bench nod for Bundesliga opener, could make league debut

    Aug 22, 2014, 2:03 PM EDT

    Bayern Munich's Julian Green fights for the ball with Al-Merrikh's Ramadan Ajab during their friendly soccer match in Doha Reuters

    The 19-year-old American attacker’s only senior appearance for Bayern was a Champions League sub. That could change today.

  20. La Liga season preview, predictions: Can anyone outlast Real Madrid?

    Aug 22, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo AP

    Probably not, but with Sevilla and Barcelona strengthening while Atletico deals with roster tumult, look for some changes near the top.

Featured video

Week 2: Saturday PL preview