RSL Soapbox: With Futty Danso shipped out, how vulnerable is the Timbers' back line without the Lescott acquisition having taken place yet?
Stumptown Footy: For starters, we're really not sure there if there will be a Lescott signing. But even if there will be, it won't be soon enough to matter this weekend. Futty's trade doesn't necessarily make the back line any more or less vulnerable, unless Pa Modou Kah is in fact injured and can't play. Norberto Paparatto has been cleared to return from his concussion and if Kah can't go, it will be either Danny O'Rourke or Rauwshan McKenzie who will play alongside the Argentine. Considering Futty was left out of the 18 in last weekend's game against Vancouver Whitecaps, Caleb Porter had clearly already moved on with his rotation. Until a signing is made in the summer, be it Lescott or someone else, depth could be a potential issue but not much more so than has already been the case.
RSL Soapbox: With a few really positive results, have the Timbers found their footing on a rough start to the season and what are the odds of playoff contention at this point?
Stumptown Footy: Playoff contention still seems very possible. The attacking talent should be more than enough to drag the decaying carcass that is the defense across the red line by the end of October. But that doesn't mean it will be easy or pretty between now and then. It's too bad for the Timbers that the attack took basically ten weeks to coalesce, but now that it has the season outlook is completely different. Now it's all down to getting results, especially when opponents are missing key players during this World Cup spell and are on short rest. Which, come to think of it, perfectly describes Saturday evening's game!
RSL Soapbox: Is Caleb Porter getting any sleep?
Stumptown Footy: Something is definitely going on with Porter right now: he's stopped shaving, he's berating media at his press conferences and talking almost exclusively about his team's inability to win a penalty so far this year. Whether all that keeps him up at night is unknowable but he's not exactly riding the same wave of positive feelings that swept him to last season's MLS Coach of the Year award. To be fair, if he turns the Timbers from the frustratingly inconsistent team into one that makes the playoffs, it could actually be a better coaching job than in 2013. But for now, despite saying he never lets his highs to get too high or his lows get too low, Porter does seem a bit unhinged.
Expected XI: Donovan Ricketts; Michael Harrington, Norberto Paparatto, Danny O'Rourke, Jack Jewsbury; Will Johnson, Diego Chara; Steve Zakuani, Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe; Maximiliano Urruti
Three Questions for RSL Soapbox
Stumptown Footy: In a season with only a single blemish, RSL has not had the best run of three games leading up to Saturday's encounter at Rio Tinto Stadium. Is it all down to national team absences?
RSL Soapbox: RSL's recent form is not due solely to the absences of their national team call-ups, although that definitely has something to do with it. RSL is lacking proven firepower up front with Alvaro Saborio, Joao Plata, and Robbie Findley all either injured or unavailable over this stretch. On top of that a schedule with four games in two weeks, two of which are on the road, will always present some challenges. In the better part of three of those four games, RSL was missing five of it's best six players in my opinion. While RSL fans will never be satisfied with anything less than a win, whatever sort of results they can gather over this run of games will be valuable and hard-earned.
Stumptown Footy: Most teams who play midweek and weekend don't get a Wednesday (away)-Saturday (home) deal. Just how difficult will it be for RSL to turn around and play again so soon?
RSL Soapbox: Head coach Jeff Cassar stated that when the season began and they saw this cluster of games including the cross-country travel that they circled it on the calendar because it would be the toughest stretch of the season. So yes, it is a difficult turnaround. But when RSL are at home, they are comfortable and typically tend to play better and have more chances on goal. The coaching staff has done a good job of rotating players over the past few matches with an eye on this last game before the break to have their best players available at home. For example, Plata probably could have put in a handful of minutes against Columbus as a sub, but they instead opted to preserve him for the home game against Portland. Schuler, the key to RSL's defense, did not feature against Seattle. So RSL should be just fine.
Stumptown Footy: RSL allowed 534 passes and 60% possession to an average Columbus Crew team that only featured Federico Higuain for the first half. Is that a harbinger for similar struggles against a Portland team that prefers to keep the ball, or a one-off?
RSL Soapbox: More than anything it was a one-off, primarily because RSL played a different formation straying from their proven diamond midfield with two strikers up top. They also had a few players on the field that have not seen more than a few games on the field in an RSL jersey. Portland plays a very similar style to RSL and the possession battle is always fun to watch since the game is typically very open.
Expected XI: Jeff Attinella, Chris Wingert, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Tony Beltran, Cole Grossman, Ned Grabavoy, Luis Gil, Javier Morales, Joao Plata, Devon Sandoval.