PORTLAND — Maybe the intrigue will be something unexpected. Perhaps Chivas USA will decide to put on a show for the Timbers Army and surge forward hoping to take advantage of Portland’s undermanned defense.
Portland coach John Spencer said as much on the eve of today’s Major League Soccer game between his Timbers and the other Los Angeles soccer team.
But if something radical happens on the Jeld-Wen Field floor, it’s more likely to be the Timbers scoring first in a game for the first time this season than it is the Goats changing their style.
Playing a formation that has 10 players thinking defense first, Chivas earned an unexpected win at Real Salt Lake on March 24. That is the only win for the Goats this season — and the only goal they’ve scored. All four Chivas matches this season have finished 1-0.
Even with Chivas focusing on defense, the Timbers will get their scoring chances. At least team captain Jack Jewsbury believes they will.
“I think for us it’s a matter of getting the ball forward,” Jewsbury said. “We’ve got a number of guys that offensively can break them down. I think we’ll get the chances. It’s a matter of finishing them when we get them.”
Turning chances into goals has not been easy for Portland. Though the Timbers do have six goals through four games, missed opportunities were a big reason for losses to New England and Real Salt Lake in their two most recent contests.
Against a defensive-minded foe such as Chivas, scoring might come down to execution on a free kick or a corner kick. Jewsbury said it’s important to stay patient and active.
“When we do get in that final (attacking) third, be calm and to continue to keep the ball and possess it in there. And when the opportunity arises make the most of it,” Jewsbury said.
A missed early chance against Chivas — or a goal from the Goats — could decide this match.
“If they go up on you 1-0, then it makes it that much harder to break them down because they’ll put more and more guys behind the ball,” Jewsbury said.