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Portland vs. Columbus (Match Preview)

Who will help Emilio Renteria up top against Portland?
Who will help Emilio Renteria up top against Portland?

Winless in their last four games, Columbus travels to Portland tonight (10:30) hoping to end their losing streak against a Timbers team that has also been struggling this year.

Both teams are currently sitting on seven points, although Portland has played one more game than Columbus. It is a clash between two of the bottom feeders in the league; only Toronto FC is lower in the standings.

Last year at Jeld-Wen Field, Portland was very successful, earning 30 points (9-5-3). They haven't been as dominant in 2012, giving up late goals in games against Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA that ended in loses. Although, they have picked up six of their seven points at home after defeating the Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City. Last weekend, the Timbers lost 2-0 away to the expansion Montreal Impact.

Columbus is coming off a 1-0 loss at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps last Saturday night. The Crew were definitely the better team on the day, scoring twice only to have both disallowed. They looked very dangerous throughout the game, especially the first half. However, results are what matter, and Columbus didn't get any points from a very winnable home game. Vancouver's goal came on a direct free kick from an unordinary part of the field.

Prediction and more after the jump...

The biggest question facing Crew coach Robert Warzycha is who to start at forward. Last week's starters, Olman Vargas and Aaron Schoenfeld, both picked up injuries and will be out for the next couple weeks. Emilio Renteria has started five games this year. He is almost guaranteed to start tonight.

However, who will play up top with him? The two most likely answers are Ethan Finlay or Justin Meram. Finlay came on as a sub against Vancouver last week for Schoenfeld and lined up as a forward. He has played in every game thus far. Meanwhile, Meram hasn't made a first team appearance in 2012 even though he played in seventeen games and started four last year as a rookie. It truly is a 50/50 toss up as to who will start.

Warzycha could possibly decide to go with a five-man midfield and leave Renteria by himself up top, but that hasn't worked so well when tried before. Another option is having Milovan Mirosevic play a second striker position. That would allow the Crew to clog the midfield while also have an attacking outlet. The rest of Columbus' starting lineup should remain the same from last weekend.

Portland's attack is lead by the Scottish Premier League's all-time scorer, Kris Boyd. Boyd leads the team with three goals, along with midfielder Darlington Nagbe.

Prediction: Timbers 2-1 Crew

Columbus is in quite the offensive slump right now. While they have looked better the past two weeks, they still aren't finishing in the final third as well as they should be. Portland is much better at home than they are on the road. They can score in bunches when in the mood. Don't bet on the Crew returning home with any points.