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Portland arrives as season starts

March 18, 2011 | 10:40 am No comments
By Shaun Schafer

The Colorado Rapids get to play their first meaningful game since winning the MLS Cup in November when the expansion Portland Timbers open the season at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

While it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that team captain Pablo Mastroeni hoisted the cup on a chilly night in Toronto, it’s still exciting to see the 16th MLS season launch with a home game for the Rapids.

Yes, Los Angeles got the first win of the season by beating the Seattle Sounders 1-0 on Tuesday night, but with a full slate of games this weekend, the league finally gets the chance to crank up. And, for the first time, Rapids fans get to enjoy the feeling of being league champions. For me, that feeling has not worn off since the final, but it will be nice to see how big a production number the team makes a cup holders for the first time.

While the team hasn’t changed much in the past four months, there are a few new faces and some notable departures for the Rapids.

Arrivals: Sanna Nyassi (Seattle), Tyrone Marshall (Seattle), Joseph Nane (Toronto), Mike Holody (unattached), Steven Emory (Metro State College), Eddie Ababio (Univ. of North Carolina), Caleb Folan (Hull City, England).

Departures: Julien Baudet (Seattle), Danny Earls (Seattle), Claudio López (waived), Ross Schunk (waived).

These comings and goings are unlikely to do much to change the lineup that won the cup. Nyassi adds depth in the midfield, Marshall adds depth in the back and Folan adds depth at forward. Of those three, only Nyassi is likely to see the field as a second-half sub on Saturday.

Likely Rapids 11: Matt Pickens, Anthony Wallace, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Kosuke Kimura, Jamie Smith, Jeff Larentowicz, Mastroeni, Brian Mullan, Omar Cummings, Conor Casey.

Likely Timbers 11: While it’s fairly easy to project the Rapids starters, the Timbers are another matter. Based on the roster and who has played in the preseason, this is what I expect: Troy Perkins, Rodney Wallace, Kevin Goldthwaite, Eric Brunner, Steve Purdy, Adam Moffat, Jack Jewsbury, Ryan Pore, Peter Lowry, Kenny Cooper, Jorge Perlaza.

Sal Zizzo would be the normal choice for a midfield wing, but left the team’s final preseason match with an arm injury. If he’s healthy, expect Zizzo to replace Moffat in the starting 11.

Records: First meeting.

Rapids to Watch: Cummings and Casey have formed the deadliest strike partnership in the league in the past two seasons. There is every reason to believe that will continue for 2011. Moor is also a player to watch. He’s a steady center back and he played every minute of every game in 2010. He is critical for this squad.

Timbers to Watch: Jewsbury arrived in a trade from Kansas City and has taken over as captain. He’s a versatile player and will be called upon to lead from the midfield. Cooper is a known quantity from his time at FC Dallas. However, after his European sojourn, he needs to get back on the scoring sheet. In past visits to Colorado, he has looked troubled by the change in altitude. The x-factor is Ryan Pore. He’s deceptively fast and has the goal-scoring instincts of a forward. He also finished as runnerup to Danny O’Rourke for the Hermann Trophy in college. After an unhappy time with the Kansas City Wizards, it’s no fluke that Pore has worked his way back to the MLS. He could provide fits for defenders.

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