Preview: DC bring 3-game win streak, playoff hopes into Portland

PORTLAND TIMBERS vs D.C. UNITED
JELD-WEN FIELD, Portland, Ore.
September 29, 2012 (WEEK 30, MLS Game #291)
7:30 p.m. PT (KPTV-FOX12; CSN-MA)
 
The Portland Timbers return home to take on a streaking D.C. United when the clubs face off in an interconference clash Saturday evening at Jeld-Wen Field. The Timbers are still mathematically in the hunt for a first playoff berth, following their 2-1 defeat at Real Salt Lake last weekend. United are chasing down a first playoff berth in five seasons, now in third place in the Eastern Conference following a third consecutive victory, 1-0 vs. Chivas USA last weekend.
 
REFEREE: Michael Kennedy. AR1 (bench): Craig Lowry; AR2 (opposite): Kermit Quisenberry; 4th: Ricardo Salazar
MLS Career: 150 games; FC/gm: 28.5; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 31; pens: 50
 
 
INJURY REPORT:
PORTLAND TIMBERS – OUT: FW Kris Boyd (R adductor strain); DF Lovel Palmer (R knee contusion); GK Donovan Ricketts (L shoulder separation); DF Chris Taylor (R hip surgery); QUESTIONABLE: MF Diego Chara (L adductor strain); PROBABLE: MF Freddie Braun (abdominal strain); GK Jake Gleeson (R hand contusion)
D.C. UNITED – OUT: MF Lance Rozeboom (L knee ACL tear); DF Daniel Woolard (concussion-like symptoms); MF Stephen King (inguinal hernia repair); FW Josh Wolff (lower back disc herniation); MF Dwayne De Rosario (L knee MCL sprain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Emiliano Dudar (R knee bone bruise)
 
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: none
 
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD:
POR: Jack Jewsbury
DC: Dwayne De Rosario, Andy Najar, Lionard Pajoy, Maicon Santos
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS:
POR: Kris Boyd, Hanyer Mosquera, Lovel Palmer, Kosuke Kimura, Diego Chara, Steven Smith, Franck Songo’o
DC: Emiliano Dudar, Chris Pontius, Dejan Jakovic, Bill Hamid, Chris Korb, Marcelo Saragosa
 
HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (2 meetings): Timbers 0 wins, 3 goals … United 1 win, 4 goals … Ties 1
AT PORTLAND (1 meeting): Timbers 0 wins, 2 goals … United 1 win, 3 goals … Ties 0
2011 (MLS)
5/29: POR 2, DC 3 (Jewsbury 68; Perlaza 88 – Kitchen 13; Pontius 75; Wolff 85)
10/19: DC 1, POR 1 (De Rosario 73 – Cooper 24)
  • The teams are meeting for the only time this season.
  • The teams met twice in Portland’s inaugural season. United came away with a 3-2 win on their first visit to Jeld-Wen Field, last May 29, before the teams played to a 1-1 draw in Washington on Oct. 19 that put a real dent in both teams’ playoff ambitions.
  • Coaches' records: Ben Olsen vs. POR: P2 W1 L0 D1 … Gavin Wilkinson vs. DC: first game
PORTLAND TIMBERS
The Portland Timbers continued their winless campaign on their travels, Real Salt Lake claiming a 2-1 win Saturday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium. The Timbers are in a tie for seventh place in the Western Conference with 29 points from 29 games.
 
LAST MATCH
  • Real took a two-goal lead before halftime on a pair of set pieces. From the edge of the box nearly straight out from goal, after Javier Morales was taken down by Portland defender Steven Smith, the playmaker used a little back-heel to feed Fabian Espíndola, who ran onto it and struck a left-footed rocket through the wall into the bottom right corner of the net.
  • RSL extended their lead in the 36th minute on a free kick from just outside the Portland penalty area. Morales once again drew the foul, about five yards outside the box on the left side, and this time did it all himself, stroking a beautiful, bending ball over the wall and to the top-left corner of the net.
  • The Timbers pulled a goal back in the 61st minute when winger Sal Zizzo sent a ball in from the right side and second-half substitute Bright Dike rose up high in the air to head home.
  • Timbers interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson made two changes to the side that reached a 2-2 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium. Kosuke Kimura came into the back four for Lovel Palmer, and Sal Zizzo started in place of Kris Boyd.
  • PORTLAND TIMBERS (4-2-3-1): Joseph Bendik - Kosuke Kimura (Eric Alexander 67), Hanyer Mosquera, David Horst, Steven Smith (Bright Dike 46) - Rodney Wallace, Jack Jewsbury - Sal Zizzo, Darlington Nagbe, Franck Songo'o (Kalif Alhassan 82) - Danny Mwanga.
TEAM NEWS
  • Portland saw their winless season away from home continue in the loss at Real Salt Lake. Portland is 0-11-4 on the road this year; four teams in MLS history have gone through an entire season winless on their travels.
  • “There have been some good performances on the road,” interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson said. “(It) wasn’t a bad performance from us. There have been teams that have come in here and done less against Salt Lake, and picked up a better result.”
  • Timbers striker Bright Dike scored his third goal in the last seven games. He has made eight appearances since returning for a loan spell with USL Pro side LA Blues.
  • “The difference between me having three and me having six is a couple inches,” said Dike. “I've hit a couple crossbars, had a couple near misses. So I'm just trying to get that focus and keep learning from that and just keep it going hopefully. I definitely think they'll start falling for me at some point because I've been working hard on that and I think my accuracy will only get better.”
  • It was a second consecutive substitute appearance for Dike after starting five consecutive matches.
  • “I thought Bright Dike came on and added a bit of life. I would like to do a little more in the final third. I think that comes with maturity. I think the possession stance of this team has changed dramatically from what they were. We look a lot more comfortable with the ball, but results are what it takes,” said Wilkinson.
  • Before the RSL match, the Timbers learned they could be without Designated Player Kris Boyd for the remainder of the season after he injured his hamstring against San Jose.
  • Sal Zizzo collected his fourth assist of the season, all in the last seven games, his cross setting up the Dike goal. Zizzo was making his seventh start in the last eight matches.
  • “We have a different mentality. This may get old saying that we are close week in and week out, but I really do feel that we are close,” said Zizzo. “There is going to come a point when we are going to tie this game and win in San Jose. We just need to stay focused.”
  • The Timbers have now conceded four goals directly from free kicks, most in MLS this season. They have allowed eight goals total from set-piece situations.
  • Following the visit by D.C. United, the Timbers will conclude their road campaign with visits to both Cascadia Cup rivals, Seattle and Vancouver.
  • “Not only are they road games, but they are against Vancouver and Seattle and so that adds more to it with it being the Cascadia Cup,” midfielder Jack Jewsbury said. “They are big-time rivals for us so there is definitely some extra importance. The reality of it is that we don’t want to go down in the record books as the team that was the worst of the year. It’s getting better, but we need to be able to walk out of here with three points.”
D.C. UNITED
D.C. United recorded their third victory on the trot, once again getting the game’s only goal in a defeat of Chivas USA on Sunday evening at RFK Stadium. United are in a tie for third place in the Eastern Conference with 50 points from 30 games.
 
LAST MATCH
  • The game's lone goal came in the 64th minute. United striker Lionard Pajoy made a nifty move outside the box to free himself up and send in a low cross from the right. Branko Boskovic made the run and dove to beat Chivas defender Danny Califf to the ball and nod it inside the far post.
  • United head coach Ben Olsen made two changes to the team that got the game’s only goal in a defeat of Philadelphia Union at PPL Park. Marcelo Saragosa and Maicon Santos came into the team in place of Lewis Neal and Branko Boskovic.
  • D.C. UNITED (4-4-2): Bill Hamid - Andy Najar, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, Chris Korb - Nick DeLeon, Marcelo Saragosa, Perry Kitchen (Lewis Neal 77), Chris Pontius - Lionard Pajoy, Maicon Santos (Branko Boskovic 57).
TEAM NEWS
  • D.C. United have won three games in a row, their first consecutive victories since winning four in a row May 16-June 16.
  • “I think the guys have all raised their game,” United head coach Ben Olsen said. “We’ve rode out luck at times, too. Let’s not go crazy here. We could have had ties or losses in all three of these games. They weren’t overwhelmingly dominating.”
  • “I would say [confidence] is at a high level,” Chris Pontius said. “We’re winning games, but it hasn’t been where we’re blowing teams away. I think we can play a lot better. We’ve gotten away with maybe one or two this week taking plays off. Myself included. I didn’t have a good week. I think we can just be a lot cleaner as a team in possession and throughout the whole game. But three wins in a week, you can’t complain too much.”
  • United have also recorded shutouts in back-to-back games for the first time this season after the win vs. Chivas USA.
  • “It gives us a lot more confidence, the fact that we’ve gotten two shutouts in a row and two great games of defense,” goalkeeper Bill Hamid said. “You have to take your hat off to the holding mids and defense, blocking everything.” Said center back Brandon McDonald: “My feeling is that it’s somewhat starting to mesh and come together. We’ve had some consistency in the back line. The same guys being back there, we’re starting to get a better understanding for each other.”
  • United midfielder Branko Boskovic scored his first MLS goal, in his third season in the league, to give United a crucial three points in their bid for a first playoff appearance since 2007.
  • “The last month, everybody play good, everybody take a chance,” Boskovic said. “Last game, Neal come in and score. Then Maicon give a good pass. This is good for team. This is victory of group.”
  • Boskovic came on as a substitute vs. Chivas after back-to-back starts where he had been substituted before the hour mark.
  • “Even though I’m sure [Boskovic] disagrees with me at times, he’s committed to the guys out there and he’s committed to this organization," said Olsen. "He always has been. I’m happy he was the hero today."
  • After playing with Lionard Pajoy as a lone striker in the win against Philadelphia three days earlier, Olsen returned to a twin-striker setup with Maicon Santos partnering Pajoy.
  • “I know you guys made a meal out of [Boskovic’s] comments earlier in the week but to me that’s just a guy that wants to be on the field and wants to win and I thought his attitude all week has been good,” said Olsen. “He helped out in the Philly game and I put him in a position he’s never played at in his life and I think he has excelled at it in both opportunities.”
  • The trip to Portland is the first of back-to-back road matches for United, who have three of their last four games away from RFK Stadium. United are 4-9-1 on the road this season after ending a six-game winless run on their travels in the 1-0 win at Philadelphia.
  • “We’ve put ourselves in a pretty good position but now we have to go away for two games and that has been our Achilles heel,” Olsen said. “It was good to get the monkey off our back in Philly, but you’ve seen Portland. It’s a small field, tough crowd and tough atmosphere so that is going to be a big task.”