There’s a reason why the term litmus test has been thrown around ahead of tonight’s game in Portland. For the Timbers, the game is a chance to measure themselves against a potential rival for a playoff spot, making three points all the more important. For Colorado, it’s an opportunity to further establish themselves in the West’s increasingly top five, taking valuable points on the road from a talented but wayward team.
Those are the stakes for this week’s Friday night game, with NBCSN and NBC Live Extra bringing you all the action from Providence Park starting at 11:00 p.m. Eastern.
Portland, coming off back-to-back loses to the rival Sounders, have been passed in the standings by Chivas USA, leaving last year’s conference finalists in eighth with 15 games to play. Needing to pass three teams to claim a second straight playoff spot, the Timbers are quickly approaching a make-or-break point of their season.
Those are circumstances that put Liam Ridgewell, the club’s latest Designated Player, in the spotlight. Imported from the Premier League’s West Bromwich Albion, the left back will be slotted into the middle of Portland’s troubled defense. Making his MLS debut tonight, Ridgewell represents one of the back line’s last hopes for improvement.
That defense will be facing Deshorn Brown, the Colorado striker whose athleticism makes him one of the more difficult matchups in the league. Behind him, Dillon Powers continues to emerge as a decisive player in midfield, while Drew Moor’s presence anchoring the central defense during head coach Pablo Mastroeni’s first season.
Should that spine come through tonight, the Rapids will jump to second in the West, though the impact will be more dramatic for Portland. If the Timbers can’t get full points at home against Colorado, fans will have little reason to believe their team’s capable of making a second half push.
Portland: Donovan Ricketts; Jack Jewsbury, Danny O’Rourke, Liam Ridgewell, Michael Harrington; Diego Chara, Will Johnson; Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri, Steve Zakuani; Fanendo Adi
Colorado: Clint Irwin; Chris Klute, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Thomas Piermayr; Dillon Serna, José Mari, Jared Watts, Dillon Powers; Dillon Serna, Carlos Alvarez, Marlon Harrison; Deshorn Brown.