Three Questions with Stumptown Footy: Portland and the Shield, Will Johnson, and approach

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

We took an opportunity speak to Will Conwell of Stumptown Footy about Portland Timbers and the status of their side ahead of tomorrow's intense matchup.

1. Are fans in Portland looking at the Supporters Shield with wide, hopeful eyes? We are here - and I'm sure plenty are elsewhere. How much would it mean to supporters? Would it be more than winning MLS Cup?

To go from the third worst team in Major League Soccer to Supporter's Shield's hopefuls is already a huge turnaround, but to be only two weeks and a favorable result away from the shield is almost too much to hope for. That said, there is a real belief here that the Timbers can beat anyone, both among the team and the fans.

2. For the first time this season, this matchup could actually include Will Johnson for more than a portion of the match. How important might he be in negotiating the Real Salt Lake midfield?

Will Johnson is a key part of the Timbers lineup, and having him healthy for this match will go a long way toward improving the Timbers fortunes against the visitors. Johnson has been surprisingly prolific this year, scoring eight goals for the Timbers, but his bigger contribution is on the defensive side, where he is constantly harassing and harrying his opponents.

According to Michael Harrington at today's practice, the team has nicknamed Johnson the "One Man Press" for his ability to control the center of the pitch and win balls back.

3. Is there any chance Portland will adopt a more defensive stance if they find themselves in a favorable position in the match? What is Caleb Porter's approach to that?

Porter has been criticized this season for what some perceive as a willingness to bunker when up on opponents late in the game, particularly when he makes substitutions like inserting Ben Zemanski, a more defensively minded midfielder, for Diego Valeri, the mastermind behind the Timbers' attack for much if this year. However, those changes in tactics and personnel have been largely driven by the Timbers injury history this year, when at times a third of the team has been carrying a knock.

If you look at the Timbers Sunday night match against the Seattle Sounder, the insertion of Zemanski, Frederic Piquionne, and Sal Zizzo gave the Timbers a much more attacking look as they tried, successfully, to push the surging Sounders back down the pitch.

Injuries and absences

Diego Valeri is a big question mark for the Timbers as he deals with what is rumored to be a sports hernia. Valeri will likely be on the bench for this one and will require the Timbers to be in dire straits to see the pitch.

Maximiliano Urruti is out after pulling his hamstring on Sunday.

David Horst, Brent Richards, Dylan Tucker-Gangnes, and Ryan Miller are all out with injuries.
The Timbers do not have any suspensions.

Lineup prediction: Ricketts; Harrington, Kah, Futty, Jewsbury; W.Johnson, Chara; Wallace, Alhassan, Nagbe; R.Johnson

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