June 16, 2010 - U.S. Soccer Federation D-2 (USSF D-2) - Minnesota United FC
BLAINE, Minn. (June 16, 2010) - With seven points from their last three league games, the NSC Minnesota Stars look to continue their recent good form in two matches against the Portland Timbers. The Stars travel to Portland for a Thursday night match before returning to the NSC Stadium to take on the Timbers Saturday at 7 p.m.
Portland started the USSF Division 2 Pro League season brightly, posting three wins and a tie in its first four matches, but the club has struggled since then, going winless in its last seven league matches. That stretch includes two uncharacteristic losses at home. This is Portland's last season of second division soccer. The Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps will join Major League Soccer in 2011.
The Stars have taken only four points from their road matches this year, but solid performances, even in some of the losses, have the team confident ahead of Thursday night's match at Portland's PGE Park.
"We have a lot of respect for Portland and what they've been able to do in the league over the past several years," Stars head coach Manny Lagos said, "but we've been playing very well lately, and the guys are confident. As a team, we've had some growing pains, but we've always kept our heads up, and I think our play in the last several matches is reflective of what you'll see from us moving forward."
Lagos singled out Portland's Ryan Pore, who has played a part in all 10 goals the Timbers have scored in league play this season, as a player to watch out for. Pore, who spent four seasons with MLS' Kansas City Wizards, is the league's leading scorer with eight goals in 10 matches
"He's a threat because he's shown he can score throughout his career if he's given the space, but he's a dangerous passer, too, and over-focusing on him on defense creates chances for his teammates," Lagos said.
Defense will again be a focal point of the Stars' strategy. The team has scored more than one goal in only one game this season, a 3-2 victory over AC St. Louis on May 29. Goalkeeper Joe Warren hasn't allowed a goal since the 69th minute of that game, a shutout streak that spans 201 minutes.
Warren and the Stars will hope to bring that streak back intact from Portland for Saturday night's game. The Timbers haven't won on the road in 2010. Saturday's match will be both sides' third game in five days after Lamar Hunt US Open Cup first round matches on Tuesday night. The Stars follow up Saturday night's game with a Sunday afternoon exhibition match against the Chicago Fire of MLS. Lagos said the heavy run will let him test the depth of his team and give minutes to some of his players who haven't seen much time this season.