In an effort to tap into the great network of writers we have here at SB Nation, I sat down with Geoff Gibson of Portland Timbers blog Stumptown Footy to chat about tonight’s match at Jeld-Wen field. Geoff published the first half of that conversation earlier today; what follows is the continuation of our discussion:
Quake, Rattle and GOAL!: After a midseason slump at Jeld-Wen field, what has been the chief reason for the turnaround in home form?
Geoff Gibson: Mike Chabala and Lovel Palmer shoring up the left and right back positions. Prior to their arrival the defense was always shaky, particularly at the right back position (a position, mind you, that was meant to be fielded by Arsenal player Kerrea Gilbert). Since their arrival, the back line has been steadier allowing midfielders Jack jewsbury and Diego Chara to focus more on providing service to the strikers rather than running back to defend.
QRG: The Quakes defeated Portland earlier this season -- albeit in a US Open Cup qualifier -- to give the Timbers their first home defeat. The players mentioned how intense and loud that stadium could be in their preparations this week. How much do the Timbers players acknowledge the effect of the crowd and is it as daunting as described to play in such a hostile environment?
Geoff: Honestly I can't really say how much it directly affects them. It does, absolutely. Considering they've only won once on the road I'd say that's an undeniable fact. Still it's hard to quantify exactly given a multitude of variables. I will say, however, that the players love the crowd and the fully attribute the Timbers Army for the fantastic atmosphere they supply and the effort they put into helping bolster the team. The Timbers Army definitely make for an intimidating experience.
QRG: Captain Jack Jewsbury looks to be a steal of a player by Portland. What has he done to make the players around him better this season?
Geoff: His distribution and work ethic are top notch really. He's also the player who comes in with the most MLS experience in a very young team (youngest average in MLS) so his presence is definitely felt with the likes of players such as Sal Zizzo, Darlington Nagbe, Eric Brunner, and Kalif Alhassan. He's also done very well in just getting goal scoring opportunities. As the current lead goal scorer and assist providor for the club he's been phenomenal.
QRG: Which one Timbers player, if say they were forced to miss the game this week, would most affect their chances of prevailing over the Quakes? Are we again talking about Captain Jack?
Geoff: For once I'll say no... this time it would have to be Diego Chara. In the last few weeks he's really begun to shine and, when he's not scoring goals himself (as he did against the New England Revolution) he's actively involved in the goal scoring opportunities. In a word he's been absolutely crucial to the last few wins.
QRG: After hosting San Jose, the Timbers close the season with 4 of 5 matches on the road. Does that make Wednesday's game against the Quakes a "must win?"
Geoff: Yes. No question about it, given the Timbers knack for drawing or losing on the road every single home game is a must win. If the Timbers win tomorrow nigh, win at home against the Houston Dynamo, and get one or two draws they'll be in a good position to head to the play-offs.
QRG: That's all from me; I hope you enjoy the game tonight, but not too much...
Geoff: Hahaha thanks!
Kick-off for tonight's match is at 7:30 p.m. at Jeld-Wen Field, with the broadcast here in the Bay Area being shown on Comcast Sportsnet California.