v Vancouver WhitecapsPortland Timbers
v Minnesota Thunder
Where: PGE Park
When: Friday May 5th
, KO 7pm and Saturday May 6th
, KO 7pm
Timbers game notes avaliable here, from portlandtimbers.com
Tickets: Tickets start at $10 general admission
and can be purchased on game day or in advance at the PGE Park box offices or from ticketmaster.
From the Official Preview at portlandtimbers.comAgnello
- "Obviously, I'd like to get the points, but more importantly, I'd like to see us settling in and establishing roles within the team. I want to see our players putting everything on the line and claiming spots.
both fit and available. Iñiguez
out with strained hamstring.
Friday will be the first time most will have seen the new look 2006 Timbers
in a USL game and the first time even more will have seen any of the new players
signed by coach Chris Agnello.
The questions posed during the off-season are slowly being answered
, but this first home game and the quick follow-up on Saturday will go a long way to giving pointers to how the Timbers season will progress. A team that can compete with the traditional USL Div 1 leaders
, a team that will struggle to find it's feet
or a team that will do well enough to forge a mid-table respectability as a foundation for the coming years?
What we do know is that Coach Agnello has assembled a group of players that on paper
can certainly challenge to better the Timbers best seasons so far. The backbone
of the team, running from keeper Josh Saunders
, through Scot Thompson
, into midfield via the likes of Edwin Miranda
and Hugo Alcaraz
up to the head of Byron Alvarez
returns, and that was better than any fan could have hoped during the long winter months.
Chris Agnello has added some players with MLS or MLS reserve experience - Michael Nsien
and Luke Kreamalmeyer
for example- who have already shown that they could be key players this year
The unknowns are still many. Players like Salim Bullen
and Mubarike Chisoni
have yet to arrive in town [update: As I understand it, neither Chisoni nor Salim Bullen will be playing this weekend. Bullen won't be in town and neither will have trained with the team...obviously!
] and the other players who have made their way to the Rose City via college careers or through coach Agnello's Utah Blitzz days are unknown quantities
in the USL Div 1.
Add in a few roster spots yet to be filled including a forward or 2 and at least 1 defender
(the MPFTUK* who we can assume has more than a little
experience) and there is much to revealed.
There are a few key things
to look out for this weekend. First the formation
. Much has been made of Agnello's team's flexibility
, with players maybe being asked to play a multitude of roles. As recently as today in the Trib, Agnello is quoted as saying that he can play a "...3-5-2 to a 4-4-2 or even a 4-3-3". If that kind of flexibility comes off it's a boon, especially in a league with long road trips and back-to-back games. The downside may come if players are being constantly shifted around, never feeling comfortable in a single role. Add that uncertainty into a team who are playing together for the first time and things could go sour.
Team chemistry is another thing to look out for. This team could easily resemble the 2001 team, which Jim Taylor talked about in the recent 107Report. That team was a collection of individuals assembled at double-quick time for the inaugural season, who pulled out some nice results, but were inconsistent and many players ended up leaving after that first year. The Timbers mix of experience, from MLS to former Timbers to college to players-as-yet-unknown, has to be pulled, kneaded and knitted together by Agnello to form that perfect Mozzrella ball and this may be his biggest test this year.
A couple of players need their own mentions: Scot Thompson will be key this year. Scot will be fully in charge of the Timbers' defense this year after, what was by his own admission, "a transition" last year from a Gavin Wilkinson led back line to a Thompson regime. Pulling together the back 3 or 4 will be a big task and hopefully any new additions at the back (in the form of a MPFTUK for example) will be just that, an addition rather than a distraction.
Luke Kreamalmeyer has shown speed and skill so far and everyone who has seen him play has had their excitement meter stuck in the red. The only question is where he will play. So many times, gifted one-on-one players require time, patience and nurturing to reap the benefits. By all reports Luke is a quiet and shy individual. Agnello has to find a system to get the most out of his talents...another big test this year.
Byron Alvarez. It's probably an easy thing to say, but the maxim: "When Byron is having a good game, the Timbers are having a good game" stands true in my opinion. Extend that to a whole season and Byron's contribution this year is another key element in the Timbers success or otherwise. When Byron's teasing and taunting an opposition's defense the team seems to get a lift. When his head is down the whole team loses impetus. Let's hope for an amazing year from Byron.
Just 3 players pulled out from the melange before the home opener and as surely as the Toronto Lynx will be bringing up the rear this year, others will emerge as being lynchpins as the season goes on. Turn, turn, turn.
[Other Fantastic Previews]
Vancouver, already buoyed by their opening day win in B.C. will try and come to PGE Park to repeat the result. Everyone and I mean everyone will be alerted to the goal scorer that night, Joey Gjertsen, but as we've seen with Vancouver teams over the years it's the team chemistry that sets them up with the top USL teams. The names on the Whitecaps roster are impressive and well known: Sebrango, Testo, Valente, Woolfolk, Klein etc. and that kind of roster meant that the Timber's didn't beat Vancouver last season home or away (2 away loses, 2 home draws. Neither did they beat Minnesota either - 4 draws there), but on Friday lifted by the crowd surely that run can be broken.
Minnesota are another team that got off with a nice win and like the Timbers have a new coach (former player Amos Magee). The Thunder have 3 Liberians (No! I said Liberians, not...) in the team, Melvin Tarley, Leo Gibson and Aaron Paye, carrying on the line of succession from former star Johnny Menyongar, and a shored up defense courtesy of former Kansas City Wizards player Dustin Branan.
[Minnesota Roster] NB: Turn your sound down on the main page. That thunder sound effect freaked me out at first...now it's kinda soothing.!
[Minnesota Fan Site-Blue Sky Soccer]
Whatever happens this weekend you can be sure of one thing. It ain't gonna be dull.
[*Mystery Player From The U.K.]