Pre Game 19 - Portland Timbers at Columbus Crew

USA TODAY Sports

Columbus is in dire straits without a win. Portland can jump to second in the Western Conference with a win.

Portland is hot, 15 game unbeaten streak hot. The Crew are the opposite. They have three straight losses. The Timbers last league game was over two weeks ago. Columbus had to fly cross country after a deflating loss in Los Angeles. On paper, this one looks one sided, but the last time that happened, the Crew dominated Montreal. They have to be hoping for the same result.

The Lineup: Warzycha again tried to shake things up as he brought in Kevan George and moved Danny O'Rourke to the back line. Agustin Viana is ready to return but may not be at full fitness and Warzycha told Adam Jardy that Wil Trapp may feature.

Gruenebaum; Williams, O'Rourke, Marshall, Viana; Sanchez, Trapp; Anor, Higuain, Speas; Oduro

Crew on Offense: Columbus looked lifeless on Thursday save for a few Dominic Oduro chances and a Bernardo Anor header. Los Angeles controlled the ball and pinned the Crew back. Columbus didn't have a shot on target until the 55th minute.

Even more than the Galaxy, Portland likes to control the ball. They've averaged 56% possession in 2013, second only Real Salt Lake. There is a strong chance that the Crew will again have to play on the counter. Columbus will have to pick up chances where they can, especially on counterattacking chances and off of set pieces.

With the way the Timbers control the ball, they still don't give up a lot of shots or goals. They have a league leading +12 goal differential. More than most games, the Crew have to finish chances.

Crew on Defense: The Black and Gold catch a break. The Timbers leader on the field, Will Johnson, forward Frederic Piquionne, and left winger Rodney Wallace will miss the game due to Gold Cup call ups. Wallace and Johnson have been key players for the Timber resurgence. Piquionne is a key sub. This team still does have Diego Valeri, Ryan Johnson, and Darlington Nagbe to threaten the Crew back line.

Clamping down on the Portland 4-3-3 will be tough. They lead the league with nearly 500 passes a game. The vast majority are short passes that slice through static defenses. The Crew will have to work to build a numeric advantage in the midfield if there is any hope of slowing up the Timbers. Diego Chara and Ben Zemanski do well to keep Valeri in the game. Slowing down that midfield will at least force Portland to plan B.

Final Walkthrough: The Timbers 15 game unbeaten streak looks impressive. They haven't lost since March 10th, going 7-0-8 over the streak. Columbus needs a win to have any real hope of staying in the playoff race. They don't get it.

Timbers 1 - Crew 1

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