Here’s a few thoughts going into the match on Wednesday:
* Who’s the laughingstock now in MLS?
Over the course of 2011 and the early part of the 2012 season, Toronto FC could easily have been labeled as a laughingstock by many MLS fans. Starting the season 1-9 led to the firing of Aron Winter, and Paul Mariner took over as coach of Toronto FC on June 7th. Since then, Toronto has turned things around under Mariner and have gone 4-4-4 since his hiring.
The Timbers made their own coaching change on July 9th, firing John Spencer, and naming Gavin Wilkinson as interim coach. Since adding coaching duties to his workload (he’s also the Timbers General Manager), the Timbers have gone 0-4-1; have scored only one goal since July 14; and have traded two of their most popular players in Troy Perkins and Michael Chabala.
Needless to say but things just aren’t that rosy in the Rose City. For further proof how far the Timbers have fallen, the MLS Power Rankings had the Timbers 19th in this week’s listings. Maybe it’s just me, but I detect a hint of sarcasm in this:
* The swap.
I don’t think I can really say much more than what others have said on Troy Perkins (see The Axe, October Thoughts and Slide Rule Pass for some excellent analysis and thoughts). Needless to say, I wasn’t pleased with the trade and for all of Wilkinson’s talk on how this move is an “upgrade” and how Donovan Ricketts is a better leader on the pitch, he still never explained how Ricketts can play attacking center midfielder. Because honestly, that’s the kind of move that needed to be made here. The Timbers weren’t languishing in 9th place in the Western Conference because of lackluster goalkeeping. That -17 goal differential certainly does rest solely on the goalkeeper’s shoulders either.
Let’s just say hypothetically that the Ricketts-Perkins trade is a wash, how many matches does that win for Portland? Most fans understand that while Perkins was no Petr Cech, he saved many a game for Portland, especially last season. I said it many times in this blog last season that without Troy Perkins, the Timbers wouldn’t have even had a sniff at the playoffs in 2011.
I hope Donovan Ricketts is a tremendous success in Portland but don’t let Gavin fool you. This trade had nothing to do with “upgrades” or “leadership.” While maybe not the most vocal of players on the pitch, Perkins wasn’t afraid to speak his mind off of it. He was looked up to by his teammates and was adored by the Timbers Army, even named the 2011 Supporter’s Player of the Year. All in all, I think it will be very interesting to see how this team responds on the pitch against Toronto.
TORONTO FC – OUT: GK Stefan Frei (L lower leg); FW Danny Koevermans (L knee ACL tear); DF Matt Stinson (R quadriceps strain); DF Jeremy Hall (L ankle sprain)
PORTLAND TIMBERS – OUT: DF Chris Taylor (R hip surgery)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: TOR: Terry Dunfield, Doniel Henry (Canada); Dicoy Williams, Ryan Johnson (Jamaica) … POR: Lovel Palmer (Jamaica); Steve Purdy (El Salvador)
SUSPENDED: TOR: Logan Emory (through Aug. 15) … POR: Franck Songo’o (caution accumulation; through Aug. 15)
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: TOR: Richard Eckersley … POR: Diego Chara, Lovel Palmer
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: TOR: Ryan Johnson, Torsten Frings. Reggie Lambe, Terry Dunfield, Ashtone Morgan, Doneil Henry … POR: Kris Boyd, Jack Jewsbury, Steven Smith, Kosuke Kimura
Toronto FC is missing lots of key players for tomorrow’s match as starters Terry Dunfield, Doniel Henry and Ryan Johnson are all on international duty. They’re also missing Logan Emery to a suspension, who has started the last four matches at the back. I don’t think it will make a difference though. The Timbers haven’t shown much of anything positive over the last five matches, and none of the recent roster changes (Ricketts and signing of New Zealand international Ian Hogg), are likely to make that much of an impact. One of the Timbers most positive players of late has been Franck Songo’o and he’s out due to yellow card accumulation as well.
Take all of what you’ve seen lately from the Timbers and then remember they still haven’t won on the road this year and you have all the ingredients for disappointment. Toronto wins 2-1.