Timbers to face resurgent foe in Houston Dynamo

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

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The Houston Dynamo are at the bottom of the Western Conference and winless on the road. But that does not guarantee that Sunday’s 3 p.m. Major League Soccer match will be a Providence Park stroll for the Portland Timbers.

Houston (3-7-5) has posted three consecutive MLS draws since coach Owen Coyle parted ways with the Dynamo on May 25. Under interim head coach Wade Barrett, Houston has 1-1 road draws at Vancouver and Dallas, a home scoreless draw with D.C. United and a 4-0 U.S. Open Cup victory. The Dynamo lost all six of their road games before the coaching change.

Last week’s 0-0 draw at home was the fourth shutout of the season for the Dynamo, whose defense includes former Timbers central defender David Horst and former U.S. national team member DaMarcus Beasley at fullback.

The Timbers (5-6-5) also have reason to be confident. As has been the pattern since Caleb Porter became coach in 2013, Portland appears to be rounding into form as the midpoint of the season arrives. Portland is unbeaten in its last five games in all competitions, including two wins and two draws in its last four league matches.

The Timbers opened the weekend eighth in the Western Conference with 20 points from 16 matches. But a win on Sunday could push Portland into playoff position with 17 games down and 17 remaining.

The Timbers will again be without midfielder Darlington Nagbe, whose month with the U.S. national team ended Saturday with the third-place match. The match might be the return for right back Alvas Powell, who been out since suffering a broken wrist on April 13.

New security measures — With new walk-through metal detectors at all Providence Park gates, fans are encouraged to arrive earlier than usual. Gates open 90 minutes prior to kickoff, at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Fans will need to put cell phones and key rings into a basket to walk through the metal detectors. Fans with metal implants or those who choose to will be checked with a wand or pat down.

Thorns to face Orlando

The Portland Thorns, playing their third match in 10 days, visit the Orlando Pride for a 2 p.m. National Women’s Soccer League match on Sunday. A live web stream will be available at www.thornsfc.com.

Portland (5-0-5) is coming off a 2-0 home win over Chicago on Wednesday and is the only unbeaten team in the NWSL, entering the weekend atop the league with 20 points. This is Portland’s seventh road match in its first 11 games this season.

Orlando (5-5-0, 15 points) entered the weekend fifth in the standings. The expansion Pride are 4-0 at home after a stoppage-time goal on Thursday produced a 1-0 win over Houston. Former Thorns forward Alex Morgan leads Orlando with two goals and 29 shots (15 on goal).

For Portland, Christine Sinclair has three goals in less than 400 minutes of action. Lindsey Horan and Nadia Nadim also have three goals. Tobin Heath has five of Portland’s eight assists. The Thorns beat the Pride 2-1 in the season opener at Portland on April 18.