The Columbus Crew head out to the Pacific Northwest, looking for their first win in seven games against the Portland Timbers. The Crew have lost their last three in shutout fashion, all coming in one week. After the third game in three games, head coach Gregg Berhalter admitted a mistake in not rotating the squad, but will have his team rested for this one. The Black and Gold do lose center back Michael Parkhurst and left back Waylon Francis to international duty.
The Timbers have struggled more than Columbus this season. Portland has one win on the season and just nine points from 10 games. It took eight games before the Timbers managed their first win, 3-2 over D.C. United two weeks ago.
Michael Orr from the Portland SB Nation site, Stumptown Footy, reached out to Massive Report to talk about the two teams and the game before Saturday's meeting.
Questions for Stumptown Footy
Massive Report: From the top of the Western Conference in 2013 to bottom through nine games played this season with only one win. What has gone wrong for the Timbers in 2014?
Stumptown Footy: The Timbers have combined a lack of scoring (apart from the 4-4 draw with Seattle Sounders) with an inability to prevent terrible defensive mistakes. In 2013, when miscues at the back surrendered goals, the Timbers usually outscored their opponents. This year, over reliance on Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe to produce something special has limited overall scoring chances and thus made the defensive problems even worse than they ordinarily would have been.
MR: Caleb Porter - a name familiar to many in Ohio - was the MLS Coach of the Year last season. Has that earned him a long leash this year? With the difficult start to the campaign, is his seat beginning to get warm?
SF: Porter's seat isn't going to warm up for another year after all the goodwill he engendered last season. But his doubling down on his preferred attacking approach has completely backfired so far and the club is reeling and making moves to address the glaring holes in the roster. This isn't all Porter's fault, though, as the players brought in this offseason, namely Steve Zakuani, Gaston Fernandez and Norberto Paparatto, have not done enough collectively to replace the injured Rodney Wallace and the departed Ryan Johnson. Paparatto in particular has been a disaster, leaving only Futty Danso and Pa Modou Kah at center back. In time, those decisions could come back to haunt Porter, but only if his player personnel decisions this summer also fail.
MR: Portland just acquired striker Fanendo Adi on loan from FC Copenhagen. What do you know of him and how is he expected to fit in with the players already in place? Does this address an area of need for the Timbers?
SF: We know very little about Fanendo Adi here in Portland. His size and YouTube clip suggests he can give Portland a physical option both holding the ball up and as an aerial option, both of which are areas severely lacking for the Timbers right now. The club has an option to buy at the end of the three month loan, so if he impresses, he could certainly find a spot in a team that has just two forwards of MLS quality. My personal opinion is that Adi is a placeholder for a bigger name striker who will be signed in the summer transfer window. His presence, which I expect to come as a substitute (though unlikely this weekend against Columbus), should get the rest of the team used to playing with a more traditional no. 9 than they currently employ with Fernandez or Maximiliano Urruti.
Questions for Massive Report
Stumptown Footy: Columbus is set to miss a few players due to World Cup call ups. Which player's absence will be the most difficult to replace?
Massive Report: Michael Parkhurst will probably be the most difficult. The U.S. international has been a rock in the center of the Crew's back line this season due to his great defensive positioning. He has hardly stepped out of place all year and been a part of one of the brighter units for the Black and Gold.
Due to the other two departures also being defenders, the back line as a whole will be impacted pretty substantially. With center back Giancarlo Gonzalez and left back Waylon Francis both leaving for Costa Rica, there will be three new players on a defense that has had the same four starters all season.
SF: After a fast start, the Crew haven't won since March and haven't picked up any points since April. What's changed?
MR: The biggest issue has been an inability to score goals. It has been three matches since Columbus put the ball in the net and four games since they did so from the run of play. The Crew are conceding a little more than a goal a game, which is certainly enough to get results yet they aren't scoring the goals to help the defense.
The three match losing streak also corresponded with three matches in seven days and very little lineup change. The coaches and players are hopeful that being well rested this weekend will help the goals start coming along with the results.
SF: What are the biggest differences for the Crew under Gregg Berhalter and the new ownership? How much patience do fans have?
MR: There are a lot of differences in this "New Era." The new owner has has brought upgrades to Columbus Crew Stadium and the the Crew's training grounds. Berhalter has brought a new culture, style of play to the team, a renewed sense of confidence. Even with the recent slide, the players have bought in to the system and believe that things will turn around.
In terms of patients, fans are beginning to get restless. I believe the three wins to start the season set the bar too high for some fans and now they are rather disappointed things haven't continued to go as well. Had the results worked out differently, with the wins spread out more, I don't think people would be as concerned. Berhalter continues to preach that this a process and looking at how the team plays.
He has a plan that is focused on the long term, so it is about changing the culture of the Crew.