MLS Preview from The Sports Network|
Monday, March 12, 2012
(All times Eastern)
Philadelphia (0-0-0) at Portland (0-0-0), 9:30 p.m.
Portland, OR (Sports Network) - Two of the newer Major League Soccer clubs
will start their 2012 seasons in prime time Monday night as the Portland
Timbers and Philadelphia Union are set to square off at Jeld-Wen Field.
Philadelphia had a tough first season in MLS in 2010, but it rebounded in 2011
with a postseason berth, finishing third in the Eastern Conference before
being ousted in the playoffs by the Houston Dynamo.
The playoff series against the eventual MLS Cup runners-up saw the Union head
home on the back of set-piece dominance from the Dynamo. According to coach
Peter Nowak, the team is much better prepared for those types of situations.
"We need to focus on preventing (goals), instead of just concentrating on the
target guys," Nowak said. "We have to make sure the guys who are around the
area - targets three, four and five - that they're also covered. So it's not
only a job for a few players, it's a job for the whole team.
"We worked on that, we're going to continue to work on that, and we're going
to try to prevent those goals."
Philadelphia's squad has undergone a bit of a facelift since the close of the
Sebastien Le Toux was dealt to Vancouver Whitecaps FC in exchange for
allocation money, leaving a great deal of uncertainty to where the bulk of the
Union's goals will come from. Faryd Mondragon also departed, leaving the shot-
stopping responsibilities on second-year goalkeeper Zac MacMath. Both are key
losses for the Union and could force the Union to take a small step back in
the 2012 season.
Portland enjoyed a much better debut season in the league than Philadelphia,
coming within a week of qualifying for the playoffs. The Timbers will look to
imitate the Union's sophomore season as the Rose City club is targeting a spot
in the postseason.
The Timbers made some upgrades to the squad in the offseason with the
additions of Kris Boyd, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, and Hanyer Mosquera.
Boyd, the Scottish Premier League's all-time leading scorer, will provide some
much-needed firepower up front following the departure of Kenny Cooper, while
Jean-Baptiste and Mosquera should help shore up a back line that was often
shaky throughout the 2011 season.
There are some injury concerns for Portland heading into the season opener,
but coach John Spencer won't be making any excuses.
"I'd like to be standing right now telling you that we've got 25, 26 guys that
are fully healthy and ready to go and fight for a spot next week, but we
don't," said Spencer. "So that's a little bit of a disappointment, but as I've
said, we've never made excuses in the past and we're not really starting to
come out now. We're in good shape."
03/11 19:09:54 ET