Previewing The Los Angeles Galaxy Opponents: Portland Timbers

Aug 2, 2014; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Baggio Husidic (L) and Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Chara (R) battle for the ball during the second half at StubHub Center. The Los Angeles Galaxy defeated the Portland Timbers 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Arena’s Los Angeles Galaxy have had a mixed bag of success against Caleb Porter’s Portland Timbers. But after being left out of the playoff mix, Portland, ranked No. 11 in The View From Avalon’s Preseason Power Rankings, has retooled and will be having a strong say on the Western Conference race. The Los Angeles Galaxy and Portland Timbers clash on Mar. 15 at Providence Park in Portland, Ore. (4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes), Jun. 24 at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. (8 p.m. PT/11 p.m. ET, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes), and Oct. 18 at StubHub Center (4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET, FOX).

Ghanaian Adam Kwarasey is projected to earn the starting job as goalkeeper. Born in Oslo, Norway, Kwarasey has 23 caps for the Black Stars and comes from Tippeligaen side Strømsgodset. His two backups are holdovers from last year’s team. Andrew Weber appeared in three matches for the Timbers in 2014 and is expected to be the backup, while third-string goalkeeper Jake Gleeson could be loaned off to Timbers 2 after failing to secure an appearance last year.

Jack Jewsbury, Liam Ridgewell, Norberto Paparatto and Nat Borchers anchor Portland’s stout back line. Jewsbury—a longtime MLS veteran since 2003—started 16 of 19 matches for Portland in 2014, while Ridgewell started 15 games for the Timbers, recording two goals and an assist. As with Ridgewell, this is Paparatto’s second year after starting 12 of 13 games last season for the Timbers. Borchers hails from Real Salt Lake and is another longtime MLS vet whose career also dates back to 2003.

Other defenders for Portland are slated to be in the mix. Alvas Powell started 11 of 15 matches in 2014, recording two goals and assists apiece. Young Brazilian Jeanderson has played for a number of clubs in his native country, including Cruzeiro de Porto Alegre. Anthony Manning, a 2015 MLS SuperDraft selection (No. 52 overall) and second-year defender Taylor Peay are projected to develop their form with T2.

A key part of the Timbers’ midfield, Will Johnson suffered a fractured tibia and fibula in a Sept. 27 match against Toronto FC last year and may not be available until later this season due to rehab. However, there are others that can fill in the void, the most notable being Diego Valeri. An MLS Best XI selection last year, Valeri started 32 of 33 matches, recording 11 goals and 14 assists. Diego Chara is expected to be a starting XI regular, having started 31 matches last year for the Timbers, recording two goals and five assists.

Last season, Rodney Wallace started 12 of 17 games, recording five goals and an assist, and will press for more minutes this year. Ben Zemanski started just 7 of 13 games and will look to also earn more time in the midfield. One of a number of newcomers, Colombian Dairon Asprilla hails from Colombian Primera División side Alianza Petrolera and brings speed and production.

A number of fringe players and rookies are slated to earn minutes playing in Timbers 2. 2015 will be Michael Nanchoff’s third season with Portland after appearing in just three games in 2014. George Fochive spent time with USL’s Sacramento Republic, leading their to their first league title last year. Nick Besler, selected fifth in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, is the younger brother of Sporting Kansas City’s Matt Besler and started 21 games last year for Notre Dame. Andy Thoma is the No. 24 selection from Washington, while Seth Casipie is the No. 84 selection from Cal who also spent time with the Austin Aztex.

Maximiliano Urruti, Gaston Fernandez and Fanendo Adi anchor Portland’s powerful forwards. Last season, Urruti started 12 of 30 matches, scoring 10 goals and recording two assists. Fernandez started 17 of 32 games last year, recording seven goals and two assists, while Adi started 19 of 24 appearances, recording nine goals and four assists.

Other forwards will either press for time on the first team or further their development with T2. Last season, Schillo Tshuma spent time with the Orange County Blues and then Arizona United, making 19 appearances in USL play. Christian Volesky is the No. 32 overall selection from SIU Edwardsville, while Kharlton Belmar is the No. 34 pick from Virginia Commonwealth. Belmar also spent time with the Portland Timbers Under-23s last season.

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