Fireside Chat: 3 Questions With Stumptown Footy

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Each team enters Sunday's contest looking for a better performance than that of Week 1

In continuation of our gameweek ritual, Michael Orr of Stumptown Footy, our SB Nation Portland Timbers site, to answer some questions in advance of Sunday's showdown in the City Without Pity.

Obviously, Gaston Fernandez's debut for the Timbers was highly successful. Can he, Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri all coexist in the same lineup, or is Porter going to have to rotate them to keep everyone happy?

Fernandez got the equalizer at the death, but actually his regular season debut was a bit rough. Throughout the preseason, because Valeri was still recovering from injury, Fernandez played in the no. 10 role. With Valeri back, however, that pushed Fernandez wide to the left and rendered him mostly ineffective. That triumvirate is the key to Portland's offense success, but Porter still has work to do in determining the best possible alignment. If the Timbers were scoring at this point, it wouldn't be a question, but with mostly set piece goals at this point, all the attacking and passing has been for naught. If that doesn't change, a line-up decision could. Though not likely before Chicago arrives on Sunday.

In investor/operator Merritt Paulson, the Timbers have the type of owner that Chicago supporters thought we were getting when Andrew Hauptman bought the Fire - committed and passionate, but realistic. How's that feel?
It's great. Merritt sometimes gets carried away on Twitter, but there is no questioning his commitment to the Timbers and the Thorns. He not only owns the team but serves as club president and is actively involved in the operation of the club. He's evolved a lot in the seven or so years he's owned the team. Really gets it and goes to bat not only for the club but for MLS and artificial turf. Now that he's on the USSF board, expect even more from him, though perhaps less tweeting.
A striker in Portland's system has many of the same, thankless tasks as in the Fire's 4-1-4-1. How is Max Urruti fitting into that role? What's the backup plan if the Argentine doesn't work out?
The easiest answer here is to move Fernandez to forward and replace him with Kalif Alhassan (though that means moving Nagbe to the left and inserting Alhassan on the right). Frederic Piquionne is also a viable option, though that chances the set up a bit to more of a direct style than either of the Argentines provides. Fernandez is probably better at a "no. 9" than he is out wide on the left, but Urruti is a better option there now, as he can press better than anyone else Porter's got. That's the key in that position, given the current set up. But if goals continue to be elusive, don't be surprised to see Fernandez end up there, especially as Steve Zakuani gets closer to full heath.

Orr's predicted Timbers starting XI: Ricketts; Jewsbury, Futty, Paparatto, Harrington; Johnson (c), Chara; Nagbe, Valeri, Fernandez; Urruti.

Injuries/Absences: Pa Modou Kah (hamstring), Rodney Wallace (ACL), Evans (back) Possible: Kalif Alhassan, Steve Zakuani

My answers to Stumptown Footy's questions (including a bonus question about the new home kit!) can be found here.

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