Sitting in last place on the Western Conference table with seven points, the Portland Timbers are off to a slow start in 2012. Despite the team's struggles, the Timbers are the only team to defeat Sporting Kansas City this season with a 1-0 victory on April 21 thanks to a Chance Myers own goal.
Offseason designated player signing Kris Boyd has been one of the few bright spots for the Timbers. The Scottish International and the second overall pick of the 2011 MLS Superdraft, Darlington Nagbe, have combined for six of Portland's nine goals this season.
Both the Crew and the Timbers will be desperate for three points this weekend as both clubs are coming off losses to Canadian opponents.
As if the rabid Timbers Army doesn't make JELD-WEN Field difficult enough for opposing teams, the narrow, turf playing surface at the stadium has provided a unique homefield advantage for the Timbers. The playing surface in Portland measures at just 70 yards wide, making it the narrowest field in all of MLS by four yards and is one of four stadiums in the league to feature an artificial surface.
"Turf is a little bit different than grass. So with everything that is practiced on grass and playing on grass, it's an adjustment. That ball is not going to bounce the same way and the quality I don't think is going to be as good," Crew head coach Robert Warzycha said of the difficulties in playing on an artificial surface.
"Absolutely, it is going to affect (the Crew's style of play). It's going to be a bit different. If you play everyday on turf, obviously you know how the ball bounces and you can adjust. We're going to go (to Portland) and do our best."
After playing his entire career in South America and Europe prior to last season, Columbus defender Sebastian Miranda noted his distaste for playing on an articial surface.
"It's very different playing on turf compared to a natural field, I don't like it," the Chilean said after Wednesday's trainign session in Obetz. "Of course, the field is going to be different. The bounce is fast, the field is harder, but we have to think only about the game and us."
LAST YEAR'S RESULTS
The Crew and Timbers split the season series in 2011, with the home team taking three points in both meetings. This will be the only meeting between the two sides this season, due to 2012's unbalanced schedule.
On May 21, 2011, the Black & Gold traveled to Portland for the first time, only to be taken down by a familiar face. Dublin native and former Crew and Ohio State defender Eric Brunner scored the match's only goal heading home a cross from Kalif Alhassan in the 46th minute to beat his former team and earn the Timbers three points.
In the second meeting on July 23, Eddie Gaven put the Crew on top in the 79th minute, deflecting a shot off the chest of Mamadou Danso and past Portland keeper Troy Perkins. Columbus' 1-0 victory gave the club a share of first place in the Eastern Conference with the Philadelphia Union.