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Portland Timbers vs Montreal Impact Preview: 3 questions with Stumptown Footy

After getting an upset win in Seattle last week, the Montreal Impact are in Portland this weekend to take on the new look, new attitude Timbers, led by new manager Caleb Porter.

Steve Dykes

This game will have a special meaning for Impact GK Troy Perkins. He will be returning to Portland to face his former team for the first time since he was traded to Montreal in exchange for current Timbers starting GK Donovan Ricketts. That transaction was met by heavy criticism from the Timbers Army as Perkins was a fan favorite. He will no doubt receive a warm welcome during warm-ups.

Montreal will seek to start a winning streak after earning an upset win over the Seattle Sounders last week while Portland hopes to earn their first win after comeback from a two goal deficit last week against the New York Red Bulls to secure a 3-3 draw.

To get you ready for the game, Mount Royal Soccer asked their friends over at Stumptown Footy to help give you a scouting report and some inside info on the mighty Timbers.

The transaction list for the Timbers dating back to last season is very long. Who are your key additions and what do they bring to the table for the Timbers this season?

There are quite a few key additions but I'll limit it to three since these are the ones who will have the great impact on Saturday's game.

First up is midfielder Diego Valeri. Signed as a Designated Player (DP) in January, he is the Timbers' midfield maestro. He is an unbelievable talent. Last week against the Red Bulls, he completely dominated veteran Jamison Olave and was the driving force behind a Timbers' attack that managed 21 shots!

The next key addition would be midfielder Will Johnson. The former Real Salt Lake man is the new Captain and has quickly become the heart and soul of this team. While he's less creative and more of a box-to-box player, his tireless efforts (along with those of Diego Chara) allow Diego Valeri to do what he does best.

Finally, there is defender Mikael Silvestre. The former Manchester United man had a very difficult first half against the Red Bulls last week but was able to step up his play in the second half to show the Timbers' faithful just what he is able to bring to this team. I believe that it will take a few weeks for him to reach his peak playing form but if he can replicate his 2nd half performance from last week into a full 90 minutes, Montreal will be in for a long night.

What changes has new manager Caleb Porter brought to the organization? Do you see this as a positive hire for the team? Why?

Porter has brought a possession-oriented style of play to the Timbers. In previous seasons, those before him relied more on lobs up the middle or attacking down the sides to set up a cross. This style of play is also what you often see with other MLS teams. The older style is effective against most MLS defenses but it can be frustrating to watch. Porter has now transformed this team into one that can hold onto the ball and drive up the midfield with a series of quick passes. As a reference point, last week against the Red Bulls, the Timbers finished the match with an impressive 63% share of ball possession.

Last season, Portland finished 8th in the West with only 8 wins and a -25 differential. What are the expectations for this season and who are the key guys that will get you there?

The expectations are somewhat muted. Everyone in Portland knows that this is still a rebuilding year. The main objective for 2013 is to improve on last year and perhaps make a playoff push. The team is aiming to be a contender for the MLS Cup in 2014. It would be a blessing to be a contender as of this year and it would be a great gift to the fans. If the early play from the likes of Diego Valeri, Will Johnson, Ryan Johnson, Diego Chara and Darlington Nagbe are anything to go by, it wouldn't be a surprise for anyone to see them make some noise in the Western Conference standings.

BONUS: How is our old buddy Donovan Ricketts doing? What role will he play for the Timbers this season? What are the expectations surrounding him?

Ricketts is the starting keeper for 2013. Despite a major gaffe against the Red Bulls, he played a very solid game. He is an interesting character and goalkeeper. Just in case, the Timbers did pick up a solid backup in Milos Kocic. In my opinion, he is being groomed to take over the starting position next year as Ricketts will probably be retiring.

Player the Montreal Impact should fear and why?

Diego Valeri. He will run circles around the Impact players. He will give the Timbers' attack the creativity they need to score. He has the ability to switch up his style of play to keep opposing defenders off balance. Based on his performance against New York, I am stunned to see that a player of his caliber is in the MLS instead of somewhere in Europe.

Predicted starting formation and lineup:

Donovan Ricketts; Ryan Miller, Mikael Silvestre, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Michael Harrington; Will Johnson, Diego Valeri, Diego Chara; Kalif Alhassan, Ryan Johnson, Darlington Nagbe

Final Score?

I don't give game predictions. Sorry!

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