Philadelphia Union At Portland Timbers: Talking With Stumptown Footy

Geoff Gibson, Managing Editor of SB Nation's Portland Timbers blog Stumptown Footy, joined me to talk about tomorrow's match between the Philadelphia Union and the Timbers.

Portland is 3-0-0 in MLS play at home. Can it attributed to JELD-WEN's minimalistic dimensions?

Geoff Gibson: Jeld-Wen isn't actually as small as some make it out to be. The actual playing size is 110 x 70 yards. This is smaller than the Home Depot Center's larger 120 x 75 dimensions, but more in line with many English Premier League soccer stadiums such as St. James Park, Anfield, and Stamford Bridge. It is also fully within FIFA's standards. I'm not necessarily one to believe a few yards on a stadium is likely to give or take away an advantage to any team just like I'm not apt to believe Real Salt Lake constantly wins due to altitude.

The Portland Timbers success at home can likely be attributed to an energetic crowd and the determination of players wanting to continue to impress their boisterous fanbase.

The Timbers seem to be relying on offense to power them through games. Is it fair to say that the weak point of the Timbers is the back four?

GG: Absolutely. It's no secret that the Timbers defensive backline needs work and defensive gafs continue to be a problem. Still, with each game they've improved, so much so that they effectively shut out Real Salt Lake, allowing just a single real chance at a goal, which was stopped by Troy Perkins anyway.

Work still needs to be done, but I'm sure we'll see it solidify more and more throughout the season.

Will the Union rue not signing Jorge Perlaza? How has he performed for the Timbers so far?

GG: I think so, although I'm not sure they were ever really on the table. Jorge Perlaza was being tracked by the Portland Timbers as far back as last September.

Jorge Perlaza got off to a rocky start in the season with mismatched cues and some questionable skills. But overall it's to be expected from a player who speaks no English and is completely outside his element in terms of comfort. We've seen flashes of his brilliance on the field in the last few games and I believe he'll only get better as he assimilates the language, culture and playing styles of his new coach and team mates.

The big news here is his new midfield partner Diego Chara, who came from the same Colombian club as Jorge Perlaza. The duo has trained/played with each other since they were 12 years old. That kind of partnership should prove to be invaluable in the long run of the season and seasons ahead. I think we're looking at the beginnings of one of the best partnerships in MLS.

The Union are used to playing in front of the Sons of Ben at PPL Park. What should they expect in front of a similarly vocal crowd in Portland?

GG: I really admire the Sons of Ben for what they've accomplished in terms of establishing a fan base and, essentially, getting a team in Philly. I watched most of Philly's games last year and have tuned in this year to as many as possible. It's a large and very boisterous crowd.

That said, the Timbers Army takes it to another level. I'm trying really hard not to sound egotistical, but there's a large gap between the two in terms of the noise level, coordination and complexity of the chants/songs as compared to any other team in the league that I've heard or seen. This isn't a crowd that relies on "YSA" chants or other derogatory chants, this is a crowd that sings loud and proud for 90 minutes straight. It's loud enough that players have already complained/stated that they can't hear eachother when on the field unless they are right next to one another.

That said, I'm also not one who believes teams are ever really negatively affected by chants or boisterous crowds. Sure they'll notice them and respect them, but they'll play the game no matter what. That's why the Timbers Army focuses on positive chants/songs to help energize the Timbers.

There have been some surprises in the Timbers' midfield. Who should Union fans (and the team) pay attention to during the game?

GG: Diego Chara is our new designated player and he's somebody who Philly fans will definitely want to keep an eye on, especially considering his relationship with Jorge Perlaza. Essentially Chara was the missing piece on our midfield that we didn't have prior to the Los Angeles Galaxy game. He's a creative, fast, and forward thinking midfielder who can really open up space and drive the ball into the box to either Kenny Cooper or Jorge Perlaza.

I'd also like to point out that our captain Jack Jewsbury has been playing phenomenally for us thus far. He's score a couple times already (three if you count USOC) and is generally a box-to-box type player who is always pushing no matter where the ball is.

Both center mids have been building and establishing their relationship. I expect both will be very strong going forward.

(BONUS) Is it just me, or does Kenny Cooper look like Sebastien Le Toux on steroids?

GG: Yes, and you're not the first to mention that to me. I think it's in the nose.

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