WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 22: Fred #27 of D.C. Unitedshoots the ball against Ajax at RFK Stadium on May 22, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images)
On Sunday, D.C. United will attempt to be the first MLS team to leave Oregon with at least a point. For more information on the Portland Timbers , we turned to SB Nation's TImbers blog Stumptown Footy .
B&RU: What's it going to take for a team to beat the Timbers at JELD-WEN? Are there any inexploited weaknesses?
SF: I'm not one of those people claiming Jeld-Wen is a fortress, nor do I think the Timbers are going to go on some season-long unbeaten at home streak. It's going to happen sooner or later. Whether that happens this Sunday against D.C. United or not remains to be seen.
That said, the Timbers Army creates quite a ruckus. I'm not sure if it's intimidating for opposing teams, but it certainly energizes the Timbers out on the field.
B&RU: United fans are familiar with several players on Portland's roster. How are Rodney Wallace and Troy Perkins doing this season?
SF: Fantastic! Both of them. I'd like to extend my thanks to D.C. United for both of these players, of which I'll be the first to admit I was skeptical of each when the Portland Timbers acquired them.
Troy Perkins is another player I doubted but has since proven himself. He came from D.C. United's abysmal season in 2010 to being initially injured for the first few Timbers games. I had all but written him off at that point. However, in the last few games he has come up with some amazing saves and has kept the team's goals allowed average on the low end, particularly at home where the last three games have been shut outs. While he might be on the quieter side of the current MLS goalkeeper's he's very clearly still got the talent and may, in fact, be worth that rather high price tag after all.
B&RU: What do you think are your team's chances of maintaining their early form and making the playoffs in their first year?
SF: I like the odds, to be honest. On paper the Timbers are a fantastic team. They're young, speedy and very attacking minded. Perhaps there's still a gap in defense but overall the team is solid. The worry is and continues to be getting the team to gel together in such a way so as to be dominating like Real Salt Lake or the Los Angeles Galaxy are. I don't believe that will happen this year, but certainly as time goes by we could see the formation of an incredibly deep team.
B&RU: Yeah, that's a fair assumption. There's a remote chance that Davies will travel with United to Portland, but the team has been cautious before on road trips when the striker isn't 100%, and I think he'll stay home this weekend too. Since Josh Wolff is also recovering from injury and will probably begin the game on the bench, you can probably expect to see a starting forward combination of veteran journeyman Joseph Ngwenya and rookie Blake Brettschneider . Both players showed well in the preseason, and Brettschneider has continued that form into reserve matches, but neither has yet to score in the regular season. United's best hope may be that Troy Perkins gets confused when he sees jerseys with a VW logo and thinks that its 2010 again.
SF: Last season was pretty abysmal for D.C. United. This year they've certainly been better, but they're not at the top of the Eastern Conference, or anywhere near it. What's missing in D.C. United's line up?
B&RU: D.C. is a very young team and almost completely new team. Only three of this year's regular starters started more than half of last year's games for United. I'd say that it makes sense that United doesn't yet have enough chemistry to succeed, but the Timbers are a brand new team too, and they seem to be doing just fine. Regardless, I think that United will progress as the season ages and will compete for a playoff spot by year's end. Since the defense is finally playing with some consistency, the biggest missing piece is a creative central attacking midfielder, and the front office has hinted that they could be in the market for one this summer.
SF: Who should the Portland Timbers really be looking out for on Sunday?
B&RU: Well clearly its the wingers. Chris Pontius and Andy Najar are both quick, aggressive, and unrelenting. They'll challenge your outside backs throughout the game. Don't take the D.C. defense for granted either though. Most of those 18 goals against (tied for worst in the league) came before the backline was settled. The combination of Perry Kitchen , Dejan Jakovic , Ethan White , and Daniel Woolard has been together for three games now, and has only given up two goals (one from a penalty kick, and one from a free kick).