PORTLAND, Ore. — Much like the Portland Timbers’ last friendly against Club América, the team’s third exhibition Wednesday at JELD-WEN Field against West Bromwich Albion (11 pm ET, streamed live at portlandtimbers.com) is coming at an awkward time.
The Timbers are riding high after securing their first MLS road victory Saturday, a 1-0 decision against the Chicago Fire. And Portland will take to the road once again for a Saturday match against the Columbus Crew.
“It’s experience for young players and experience for guys who aren’t involved,” Timbers head coach John Spencer said of the match against the English Premier League side. “I think it’s a good experience for guys who may not play for the national team at any level to test themselves against international competition. It’s just getting guys minutes who haven’t been playing regular.”
In that sense it’ll serve the Timbers well as a depth test, as Spencer will likely field a starting XI made up of mostly reserves.
The Timbers’ last friendly came during the week of preparation for the Seattle Sounders game, the first MLS match between the two bitter rivals at JELD-WEN Field. And while the Club América match proved to be anything but trivial to a near-capacity, pro-América crowd, Portland's players certainly had their minds elsewhere.
This week, the Timbers are trying to carry their momentum forward at a crucial point in the season. The challenge will be to focus on getting the job done against West Brom while not letting it become a distraction from the upcoming Columbus game.
And also similar to Club América, West Bromwich will showcase premier international talent. Head coach Roy Hodgson's Baggies side features Nigerian forward Peter Odemwingie, who ranked fifth in EPL scoring with 15 goals last season. Ireland national team star Steven Reid is the leader at midfield.
Spencer hopes, however, that the midweek game is a pleasant diversion for his regulars and a good opportunity for his bench players.
“It’s a good distraction,” he said. “Guys can get involved in the game. It’s an exhibition game but it’s not meaningless.”