I'm doing a quick update today for a match preview for the Timbers versus the Rochester Rhinos tonight at PGE Park. The game is a late start of 8 pm as we are on Fox Soccer Channel so you can see the game live if you have digital cable or satellite. While the late start means a slow morning tomorrow, it does prevent the craziness of trying to get from our place to downtown by 6 pm, which happens most game days.
The Timbers struggled in Cleveland last Saturday, putting 24 shots forward, of those 11 shots on goal, and yet they couldn't get one past the City Stars, who were giving up 3 goals per game going in. The offensive effort generated some nice chances, but as often happens in soccer, luck sometimes is the most important component. The Timbers played well defensively, and held on for a point in what was described in the match reports as "completely terrible spring weather". In listening to the match, apparently it rained, sleeted, and the sun shone within a 10 minute period.
The Timbers have been working on shots on goal this week in practice all week, with our forwards trying to get more offensive. No, not worse potty mouths, but actually putting better shots on goal. And really, what I'm impressed with more than anything, it's the fact that we are getting shots on goal, which was a huge problem with last year's Timbers.
The Rhinos, who used to be called the Raging Rhinos, are no longer officially raging, but they are sitting towards the top of the table with 10 points (3 wins and a draw) in 5 games. Their leading scorer is Johnny Menyonger, who has 3 goals already this season, and is an active guy up front. Ok, he kind of looks like Gary Coleman, but he's very skilled. We will also see former Timbers Andrew Gregor, unceremoniously traded from the team last year, and Brent Sancho, who played with the Timbers back in 2001 and 2002 and has played well. Gregor will be the target of a lot of abuse from the TA, while Sancho will get some love at first until the game starts. I also look forward to seeing Scott Vallow, the Rhinos' keeper, who is a great sport in goal but does get a lot of abuse as well. He's a seasoned veteran, and is a very steady influence in back.
The Timbers are healthy, as Steve Cronin is back in goal for the team, and we have no reported injuries, so everyone should be ready to go tonight. We've got 9 days until we travel to Puerto Rico, and it's been 5 days since Cleveland, so our team should be fresh and rested. I expect a backline of SCOT, C-Knowles, Hayes and Nishimura, Claesson, Savage, McManus, and Pore in the mid, and up front, Josten and McLaughlin. We have Warren Ukah, a former Atlanta Silverbacks forward, in camp, which means that if he sticks, we'll have 4 former Silverbacks on roster (Hayes, McManus, McLaughlin and Ukah). They lead the league in goals last year, so they could score but the defense was a bit of a concern, and now they are taking this year off, so their players have been spread about the USL. The Timbers have 3 consecutive shutouts going, and would tie a record if they hold the Rhinos scoreless, and they would also break the record for longest scoreless streak on defense (380 minutes per Allison A).
Prediction ---- Timbers get 2 and the Rhinos will not score a goal and we hold our scoreless streak.
Also, a heavy heart to tonight's game as I found out that one of our beloved TA, General Timber Howie, passed away earlier today. He was a legend in the TA, and I recall fondly his guided tour of San Francisco when girl and I went there a few seasons ago. He had just retired from his job to help a co-worker out who had just had a baby when his firm needed to cut a job. I also traveled with him to Sunderland a few years ago, and he always had kind words for me and my wife. He is truly a class act, and will be seriously missed around the TA. RCTID, Howie