It’s an exciting time to be a Portland sports fan. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you’re now desperately trying to catch your breath in advance of another busy, potentially heart-wrenching weekend. To that extent, catching some z’s under a giant boulder might not have been the worst idea idea, but then again, you would have missed Damian Lillard’s buzzer beater. And Maxi Urruti’s last-kick-of-the-game winner, Mariana Trench deep into stoppage time.
Imagine if those pesky NWSL YouTube feeds actually worked—you could have seen the Thorns gut out a draw in a lightning storm in Rochester. That won’t be a problem this weekend, however, as the madness kicks off with nothing short of a Portland Thorns-Seattle Reign derby on Saturday afternoon at Providence Park, a game that was moved up by three hours to accommodate the first second-round NBA playoff game in Rip City in 14 years.
Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy
Sunday May 11, 11:30am
But seeing as this is a Timbers preview , let’s all hope Game 3 won’t go into overtime, because the Timbers kick off against no less than the L.A. Galaxy on Sunday, before noon. (Thanks, East Coast bias.) Portland may be a brunch town, but the Timbers Army won’t be lining up early on Sunday morning for eggs benedict or chicken and waffles, but for the arrival of Bruce Arena, Robbie Keane, and yes, Landon Donovan.
Yet, for all of their star power, the Galaxy (now two years post-Beckham) are relying on their depth more than anything. Injuries have forced head coach Bruce Arena to use eight different defenders, six midfielders, and three forwards. To compound the issue, USMNT central defender, Omar Gonzalez, is confirmed to be missing this weekend with a non-contact knee injury. Another stalwart defender, Todd Dunivant, is “questionable” for this weekend, but didn’t even make the 18-man roster for LA’s match last weekend, and has played in only two games all year. A weakened Galaxy defense should only spur on an already-energized Timbers team.
From a forward standpoint, however, Robbie Keane is as dangerous a striker as they come in MLS. The Republic of Ireland captain has scored 38 times in 59 appearances during his American odyssey, including two goals in Portland in a 5-3 Galaxy victory in 2012.
Keane’s partner in crime up front is, of course, Landon Donovan. Forever the prodigal son of U.S. Soccer, he is the first American-born, American-trained MLS Designated Player, and there is no denying that Landon Donovan is one of the cornerstones of MLS: he is visible, marketable, and popular. He’s also scoreless so far in 2014. The danger, as it were, is that other than Keane’s four, the Galaxy have only two players with a goal, none of whom are Landon Donovan. Any Timbers supporter should be wary of the opening of the floodgates if Donovan were to finally score early in the match. Otherwise, the Galaxy feature two very creative midfielders, Brazilian duo Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho (Sarvas scored in Portland last year), and they will undoubtedly look to control play in the midfield and try to funnel to ball forward to master goal poachers Donovan and Keane.
Speaking of floodgates, the Timbers finally won! Yes, it was on a miracle in stoppage time, but considering the fluke nature of D.C.’s two goals, Maxi Urruti’s 94’ second-chance strike seemed like justice served. Unlike the previous two matches, the Timbers finally combined a solid 90 minutes with a victory, and it has to be said that Caleb Porter’s men are, at long last, looking like the great team they were in 2013.
Another performance like last week can help transform Portland’s victory into a mini winning streak. The only upset tummies around Providence Park on Sunday afternoon should come from jumping up and down with a belly full of Hollandaise.