Timbers MatchDay: at Union

By Paul Danzer, Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter



Timbers at Philadelphia Union

Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. Saturday at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.

TV/radio: KPDX 49 (cable Ch. 13) / AM 750.

Where they stand: Portland (8 wins, 2 losses, 9 ties) is second in the Western Conference with 33 points from 19 matches. Philadelphia (8-6-6) is fourth in the East with 30 points from 20 matches.

Head to head: Portland has never lost to Philadelphia, winning twice and tying once in three previous matches. This is the only meeting this season, and is the Timbers last regular-season trip to the East Coast. The teams last played in the 2012 season-opener in Portland, with the Timbers winning 3-1.

Timbers’ tale: Portland is coming off the most dramatic win in its short history in MLS, a 94th-minute goal beating the L.A. Galaxy. The team, which has been good at focusing on the task at hand all season, must forget that high if it is to get a result at Philadelphia. The return of captain Will Johnson to the midfield should give the Timbers a spark (though coach Caleb Porter noted that Ben Zemanski played well in Johnson’s place). Pa Modou Kah is eligible to return after being suspended for the Galaxy match, giving Porter more center-back options. But Futty Danso and Andrew Jean-Baptiste played well against a cross-happy Galaxy team. Will Johnson and Ryan Johnson share the lead in goals with six, and Diego Valeri tops the Timbers with six assists.

Philadelphia story: The Union’s 32 goals in 20 matches are tied for the most in MLS this season. But Philadelphia has allowed 30 goals, second most in the league. Striker Jack McInerney — who turns 21 this month — has 10 goals to lead the Union. He returns for this game after his first stint with the U.S. national team, though he didn’t play while on the roster for the group stage of the Gold Cup. Connor Casey, the former University of Portland Pilot who scored 50 goals for Colorado, has seven this season as the 31-year-old gets a new start in Philly after an injury-plagued 2012. Casey had two goals and two assists in the three matches when McInerney was away. Sebastien Le Toux leads MLS with nine assists, including six over the last six matches playing mostly in a wide role. Timbers coach Caleb Porter views the Union as a tough, disciplined side. The Bimbo across the front of the Union jersey is a bread company.

Will Johnson on the Union: “They’re physical (and) very good on set pieces. They’re organized. And they’ve got a pretty good crowd there. It’s a decent little (18,500) stadium. It’s quite fun to play in. You add all those things up and it creates quite a bit of challenge for us — one that we look forward to; one that I think we can handle, but one that can’t be underestimated.”