Geoff Gibson of Stumptown Footy, SB Nation's Portland Timbers blog, and I chatted ahead of tonight's Philadelphia Union-Timbers match at PPL Park. Read my responses to Gibson's questions by clicking on the linked text here (takes you to Stumptown Footy).
Scott: From the Timbers side of the ball, how has Jorge Perlaza done? Back during the preseason it was between the Union and the Timbers for his rights and Portland won out.
Geoff: Jorge Perlaza has been playing very well. He still needs to work on his precision when taking shots, but he's very speedy and gets himself into spaces nobody else on the teams seems to be able to. Combine that with his remarkable combinations with fellow Colombian Diego Chara in the last few weeks and I'd say he's been pretty integral to the squad.
I'll be interested to see how he plays coming off a couple weeks rest... in fact I'll be interested in seeing how the whole team does coming off that kind of break.
Scott: What's he up to in terms of statistics?
Geoff: He's currently the second highest goal scorer behind captain Jack Jewsbury with 6 goals. His striking record this season hasn't been spectacular, to be honest, but the way he consistently drives at the defense and gets them tired is invaluable.
Scott: Six goals would be among the leaders on the Union as well.
Scott: How about Jeld-Wen: has it lived up to its early season form as a fortress for the Timbers?
Geoff: Eh. I hesitate to use the word "fortress" for Jeld-Wen. It's a great atmosphere and some teams might be a little intimidated playing there, but really it's just another home stadium and another home game. The Timbers can be beat at home, most definitely... but they also play much more convincingly when at home as opposed to on the road where they often bumble around for 90 minutes.
Scott: They seem to play better defensively there.
Geoff: Oh absolutely. All but one of this season's shut outs have been at home. The only game where the Timbers were able to shut out on the road was against the Chicago Fire.
Scott: Is it safe to say that the team lacks the defensive solidity that it needs for a run in the playoffs, or are other parts weaker?
Geoff: It's tough to say. Since David Horst stepped up to the center back position and Mike Chabala and Lovel Palmer came on to shore up the left and right back positions I would say the team has been playing very well defensively over the last month.
Right now, the continuing struggling point is in getting the strikers to make meaningful runs at the goal. Too many times they let chance by chance slip away.
Scott: Kenny Cooper has suffered from injuries and lack of form, right? That has to hurt the chances of scoring every game.
Geoff: Kenny Cooper hasn't been injured, but you're right in that he's not exactly in the form we all want him to be in. With only four goals scored this year he was honestly expected to do more. My biggest complaint about him is that he doesn't use his strength and size to muscle his way into areas like you'd expect of a tall physical striker. Instead he just seems to flop around in the upper third, drawing freekicks.
Scott: He hasn't been injured? I was chalking up some of this season's poor play from him because of injuries. Wow, he's worse off than I thought.
Geoff: Nope, not really anyways. There was a period that he missed large stretches of games, but that was due to some performance and attitude issues he was having with the Front Office. He's fine now and, honestly, he's playing much better than he was during the early part of the season so I still yet have hope that he'll break out.
Scott: What do you see as the score for Saturday's game?
Geoff: I don't typically like to predict matches as I believe soccer is just too unpredictable, but I'd be very content if the Timbers walked out 2-nil.
Scott: Proof was last night, ha.
Geoff: Exactly haha
Scott: I'm thinking 3-2 Union, since Mondragon won't be in net again, but a win because it's at home.
Projected starting lineup and formation?
Geoff: 4-4-2 Troy Perkins; Mike Chabala, David Horst, Eric Brunner, Lovel Palmer; Sal Zizzo, Jack Jewsbury (c), Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe; Kenny Cooper, Jorge Perlaza