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Three Questions with Stumptown Footy: Quakes vs. Timbers Preview

Nerdy Gales branches out and trades three questions with Will Conwell of Stumptown Footy - here's the log of events. Knock on wood, the Quakes will win on Sunday.

Joe Nuxoll | Center Line Soccer
First up, Will answers three of Nerdy's questions:

1. Caleb Porter was quoted after the 4-1 defeat at the hands of FC Dallas: "We took one on the chin today, but we need to pick ourselves back up". So, what went wrong in Dallas and how will Porter pick the team back up?

There were plenty of things that went wrong against Dallas. To start things off, the Timbers were playing Dallas and Dallas are really good. The high pressure tactic that Dallas used against the Timbers is one that has been shown to work against the Timbers, particularly on the road when it is less likely that you will see the Timbers get on top of their opposition like they prefer to do at Providence Park.

Additionally, the loss of Will Johnson to a post-game red card against the Vancouver Whitecaps was a deceptively big deal for the Timbers. While Jack Jewsbury has gotten the job done for much of the season while Johnson has been recovering from the tibia-fibula fracture that he suffered in Toronto last season, the sheer number of minutes that he has been forced to play have definitely worn on Jewsbury. Johnson's return on Sunday will certainly give the Timbers a boost as his fresh legs and always-on partnership with Diego Chara should help to solidify the midfield.

2. Tell us about your new Argentinian forward, 22 year old Lucas Melano - where does he fit in the game plan for the rest of the season?

There has been every indication that Melano could prove a large part of any late season push from the Timbers to hold onto a playoff spot and maybe even work their way back up the ladder in the Western Conference. While he played just over twenty minutes last weekend and probably won't get the start on Sunday, expect Melano to crack the Timbers' starting XI soon as his pace, dribbling, and attacking mindset give the Timbers a whole new dimension.

Whether Melano will mature into the goal-scoring machine that Timbers fans are hoping for remains to be seen, but he has already shown some of the qualities that caused the Timbers to bring him in, drawing a yellow card and a penalty kick as he got in behind the otherwise stout Dallas defense.

3. The Timbers have had much less success on the road than at home in 2015 -- why is that? Perhaps the Timbers players miss their fans, and I wonder if more Timbers' fans will be lured to San Jose for their first visit to Avaya Stadium. Do you think they will be celebrating, or commiserating at the Longest Outdoor Bar In North America?

I am really hung up on this bar thing. Can't you get a beer right at your seats? If you are at this bar, are you not facing away from the action? Is it literally the biggest bar-top or do they just mean the square footage of the entire establishment?

Anyway, when looking at the Timbers' road form you need to keep it in context: it is not just the Timbers who have dropped off on the road from last season, it is just about everybody. In the Western Conference every team except for the Whitecaps have been absolute monsters at home. Only Vancouver have more than three losses at home in the West and half of the conference has one or fewer losses at home.

So, sure, the Timbers have some difficulty imposing their will on the game away from home and have definitely struggled when trying to hit teams on the counter this season, but that is a pretty universal lament at this point. What will be interesting is if the Timbers' defense can find the dominant form that it exhibited early in the season, which should at least allow the Timbers to pick up the odd point or three on the road to close out the season.

Next up, Nerdy Gales answers three of Will's questions:

1. The Quakes have been in a bit of a downward spiral since losing to the Timbers four games ago. What is going on in San Jose and are the Earthquakes looking at this rematch as a chance to turn things around?

Indeed. July has not been kind to the Earthquakes - completely winless since the 3-1 California Clasico victory over LA Galaxy at Stanford Stadium in June. - so a turnaround would be warmly welcomed.

The normally stellar back line has proven shaky of late, allowing eight goals in the last two games. The soccer IQ of Bernardez, Goodson, Wynne and Stewart is a pleasure to watch (up until recently at least). The relatively inexperienced goalkeeper David Bingham has made a couple of costly errors this past month, but he should continue to learn from his back line mentors.

Well -- such are the silver-lined thought processes of the cloud-enabled fans as they prop up the longest outdoor bar in North America discussing their team's winless streaks.

2. With the Earthquakes near the bottom of the league in shots taken and dead last for shots on goal, is the attack the issue for the Earthquakes? Is it really just Chris Wondolowski scoring, or is there some other attacking threat that the Quakes can look to this year?

Ugh. Please don't make me look at the stats. The glib answer is yes, it really is just Chris Wondolowski scoring. Even with his absence in July for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and the fact that Dominic Kinnear is (mysteriously) playing him in midfield, Wondo is the leading scorer with 9 of the team's 22 goals.

Next on that list (with three goals) is Quincy Amarikwa, who arrived in San Jose since the Quakes last met the Timbers -- he's settled in nicely and tallied three goals in his last two MLS games. He's quite the character, and an athletic, hard-working player that might help ameliorate those lousy team stats you mention.

Adam Jahn does seem to have lost the plot in 2015. It's a conundrum after a promising 2014, but his pillow feet have lost their magic touch, and he's getting much less playing time than the start of this season. Mark Sherrod has been filling in with Wondo's absence, and finds himself with more and more chances - hopefully he will score hopefully sooner rather than later.

3. How badly has the absence of Innocent Emeghara hurt the Quakes, particularly after his promising showings early in the season?

Yes, he's been missed -- we reported back on May 7 that Innocent would be out of action for 4-6 months with a torn meniscus. Even a September return is optimistic, and if the Quakes don't make the playoffs, then it's unlikely we'll see him again in 2015 - so yes, Don Henley fans, it's probably the end of the Innocent. He's an exciting player to watch, and it's disappointing that he's not around to play alongside Mathias Perez Garcia.

Meanwhile, MPG is definitely finding his feet in MLS - he's gradually learned what his teammates can (or cannot) do on the pitch, and is reading the MLS game much better. With the absence of Innocent, he's become the target man for opposing defenses, and takes a lot of tackles that result in spectacular tumbles; Emeghara would have deflected a lot of that attention. Keeping MPG healthy through the 2015 is, in my opinion, the key to keeping the Quakes hopes alive in the race for a playoff spot.