Columbus at Timbers
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Providence Park.
TV: ROOT, channel 34.
Radio: 750 AM.
Timbers (1-3-6, 9 points): The good news: The Timbers have lost only one of their last six matches. The bad news: Defensive gaffes continue to rob Portland of points. The Timbers reach the one-third mark in their 2014 season Saturday desperate for a win to climb off the bottom of the Western Conference. Coach Caleb Porter this week said the team likely needs at least 42 points from its remaining 24 games to make the playoffs, which means doubling the 0.90 points per match average thus far.
Against Columbus, the Timbers will be without energetic midfielder Diego Chara (broken hand) and left back Michael Harrington (ankle). Unless Porter decides to change formation, look for Ben Zemanski to start in Chara’s spot. In back, Alvas Powell is likely to start at right back and Jack Jewsbury at left back. Does Porter give Norberto Paparatto another chance at center back after Robbie Keane’s unchallenged header last week? Or do Pa Modou Kah and Futty Danso continue to man the middle after an otherwise solid performance? Entering its 11th game of the season, Portland is still looking to post its first shutout. Nigerian forward Fanendo Adi, acquired on loan this week, trained with the Timbers on Friday and is an option to be among the 18 players available on Saturday.
Crew (3-4-3, 12 points): Since opening the season with three consecutive wins — including one in Seattle — Columbus has three draws and four losses. The Crew have scored only three goals in their past seven games and have been shut out in three consecutive losses entering Saturday’s match. Argentine Frederico Higuain leads Columbus with four goals, but two of those were scored in the season opener. The Crew are missing defenders Michael Parkhurst (United States) and Waylon Francis (Costa Rica) who are at national team camps in preparation for next month’s World Cup. Like Portland, Columbus likes to possess the ball and build its attack starting from its defense.
Follow Paul Danzer’s Timbers coverage on Twitter: @col_timbers